Dr. Cristi Ford (00:00):
Welcome to Teach & Learn, a podcast for curious educators, brought to you by D2L. I’m your host, Dr. Cristi Ford, VP of academic affairs at D2L. Every two weeks I get candid with some of the sharpest minds in the K-20 space. We break down trending educational topics, discuss teaching strategies, and have frank conversations about the issues plaguing our schools and higher education institutions today, whether it’s EdTech, personalized learning, virtual classrooms, or diversity inclusion, we’re going to cover it all. Sharpen your pencils, classes about to begin.
Listeners, welcome back. I hope you all have enjoyed your summers and have settled into the swing of things over September and I’m thrilled to be launching season two of the Teach & Learn podcast. We’re kicking off with a great conversation about workforce readiness and higher education graduates. In recent years, colleges have heightened their focus on careers, but many of their efforts have fallen flat, disconnected both from the classroom and employers.
And there aren’t many people better suited for this conversation than my two guests today. Joseph Fuller and Kerry McKittrick. They are a part of the Project on Workforce, an interdisciplinary collaborative project at Harvard, and they’re also a part of the team who authored Delivering on the Degree: The College-to-Jobs Playbook.
So, before we jump in, I just want to take a moment to introduce and welcome both my guests to the conversation today. I’ll start with Joseph Fuller, who is the professor, a professor of management practice in general management at the Harvard Business School. He co-chairs the Project on Workforce at Harvard and is the senior non-resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
An HBS grad, Joe was founder and first employee of the global consulting firm, Monitor Group now Monitor Deloitte. During his three decades in consulting, Fuller worked in senior executive and policymakers on a wide variety of issues related to corporate strategy and national competitiveness. He is currently researching the evolution of the role of the CEO and the C-suite in public companies. Joe, welcome for joining us today. Really happy to have you here.
Joseph B. Fuller (02:18):
Cristi, delighted to join you and your audience.
Dr. Cristi Ford (02:22):
I’d also like to bring in the room Kerry McKittrick. She is an associate director and the co-lead of the Project on Workforce at Harvard, where she drives interdisciplinary research and policy initiatives focused on building more equitable pathways to economic mobility. Prior to joining the project on workforce, Kerry worked with the CEO and chief of Staff at Jobs for the Future. In that role, she developed and managed cross organizational strategic projects and as a senior policy advisor on education, labor and workforce development issues for Congressman Jim Langevin from Rhode Island. Kerry, thanks for joining us as well today.
Kerry McKittrick (03:03):
Thanks for having me, Cristi. Excited for the conversation.
Dr. Cristi Ford (03:05):
So, I just want to jump right in. I will tell you, when I first saw the recent project report come out, I was so excited to read it and I want to start by asking both of you, what was the impetus for this report? Where did this all begin?
Joseph B. Fuller (03:22):
Well, Cristi, I think it really began with an ongoing discussion we have in the project about how we get more aspiring workers onto pathways that have good outcomes. And historically that issue has almost always devolved into a discussion about the merits of getting a four-year degree. There were lots of data to suggest that four-year degree holders out earned those without degrees with some college no degree.
And also that as the college population continued to grow in the United States, it was becoming less clear that we understood what drove that college premium. Was it just spending four years in an institution, in classrooms and the maturation process and the learning process and the self-efficacy that showed, or was it something more specific?
So we wanted to study what we know about what actually works, getting someone on a pathway beyond just getting a degree, and we hope that would give both learners a better sense of things they might try to do to enhance their chances and also provide educational institutions more of a roadmap for things they should be considering offering or giving access to their students too, to help respond to growing concerns about whether going to college is worth the cost, the dread, worth what paid for debate.
Dr. Cristi Ford (05:18):
I love that you shared that, Joe. And I guess I want to ask a little bit a follow-up question there. In terms of the project workforce, I think as I looked at the report, it really seemed like there were two main focuses in past. And can you talk to us a little bit more about what you set out to do in understanding the mismatch between the skills providers and the demand?
Joseph B. Fuller (05:40):
Well, we really did have two major efforts. The first was to canvas essentially all the literature, scholarly and otherwise on different types of interventions that are regularly cited as having a role in getting and keeping a student on a successful pathway. Everything from internships, bootcamps, experiential learning, job shadowing, co-ops. There’s a very fragmented literature on all those approaches, and no one had really canvased all of them and across all those types of interventions.
So, there’ll be people who are in the apprenticeship field will know the apprenticeship literature or a college administrator, a trustee, a chancellor might say, well, maybe we should be trying to get more, what can we learn from co-ops? But very, very few people look across the whole array at once, and there was no documentation as to what we know, what the entire set of literature on any one of those interventions said in terms of was the research done well, was it thorough? How successful were these types of interventions in generating good outcomes? The second thing we did was to create a geographical map of supply and demand. Let me let Kerry describe that in some details.
Kerry McKittrick (07:34):
Yeah, I’m happy to talk about the map. And I’d also love to add a few things on the playbook. I mean, one of the things we tried to do was pull together, as Joe was saying, both the literature but also the practice side. We find so often the academic side is really disconnected from the feasibility in practice.
And so, we wanted to look at both what the robustness of the evidence says about the intervention, but also how feasible that is to implement because we know every college, every employer has different needs, different resources. And so, we wanted to create this menu of options, and we really wanted to look at these interventions as Joe says, these programs, these policies in terms of their career mobility, in terms of their economic outcomes, because they often have been studied really just in terms of education outcomes, just in terms of retention and graduation. And we wanted to look at, well, do they lead to higher earnings down the line?
And then the map that Joe mentioned is our attempt to really provide a one-stop shop for regional education and employment data at the regional level. And so we wanted to inform conversations and strategies that stakeholders were having, whether it’s economic development practitioners, educators, employers who are thinking about how to link education growth, what graduates are studying with employment growth, where the market is going. And there’s so often been this disconnect or people are having conversations.
I think this field may be growing, but I don’t have data to really ground it and so we wanted to allow folks to dive into their region, which everyone listening should go to the College-to-Jobs Map website, dive into their region and see how aligned education and employment are. Because we really believe, and that’s a core value of this project, that education and employment should be more aligned.
Dr. Cristi Ford (09:52):
I really want to commend both of you. One of the things that I loved as I’m listening to you talk, but also in reading the report was the intentionality and focus on the academic literature and the connection and synergy to the practice and really thinking about the feasibility.
So, Kerry, thank you for mentioning that because for many of the institutions that we work with across the country and across the globe, that disconnect, that chasm is huge. And so being able to see the map, being able to see the connection pieces was really paramount for me as I read the report.
The other thing that I wanted to shift us in a different direction on this conversation, I feel like at times when we talk about the future of work, it’s a binary conversation. We talk about colleges and we talk about employers. But your report really elevated that there are other partners and players in the ecosystem. Can we just unpack a little bit and talk a little bit more about who else is playing in this ecosystem that you talked about in the report?
Joseph B. Fuller (10:56):
Well, there are multiple intermediaries, of course, everything from workforce boards to a very active and dynamic community of social entrepreneurs doing things locally or with specific populations to try to get people both access to educational resources, but also provide critical surround services to people as they’re making the transition from education to employment.
And one of the growing players in the field that’s still early, but are actually large companies, companies are beginning to understand that the pace of technological change and the demographics of the workforce are combining to put a squeeze on the supply of talent that they’re looking for.
So, you can see companies, great example would be Google with Google’s suite of services, actively creating content which is now being and given for nominal terms, usually free to community colleges and four-year institutions and multiple educational institutions taking that content and transforming into for credit learning.
So, I think the pressures in the systems that have become increasingly apparent over the last decade, not as a function of COVID, although COVID obviously was a huge disruption to the labor market, but these twin trends of a stagnant workforce population increasing retirement rate and dynamic technology is beginning to cause a reconfiguration of players in the labor market, which would’ve another motivation for doing this research. So, if you are a company or you are a workforce board or you are a board of regions, you need to be rethinking your game. And evaluation of the various approaches that people have done historically provides a basis for them to think about their strategies differently.
Kerry McKittrick (13:18):
And to build on what Joe’s saying, Cristi, if you don’t mind if I can-
Dr. Cristi Ford (13:22):
Kerry McKittrick (13:23):
… jump in a bit on the intermediaries. As you were saying, there has been this chasm between colleges and employers. And there are existing longstanding organizations like regional economic development entities, which have been there to try to build these connections and really should be leveraged as well as newer players.
You have the handshakes coming onto this space to better connect students to internship opportunities, for example. But we’ve seen that historically there hasn’t been a real connection between these different players. Oftentimes economic development systems are pretty disconnected from workforce, pretty disconnected from colleges, and the incentives are a bit different.
And so, bringing those together as one of our recommendations is to have college leaders participate in these economic entities to really align their programs with the economic growth can really help build that strong fabric.
Dr. Cristi Ford (14:28):
Yeah, I really appreciate that addition, Kerry, because as you both were talking, I thought about the need for additional bridge builders, the need for different funding sources, Joe, as you talked about, the opportunities that are available and what Google is doing to incentivize these practices. And so I think these are the kinds of things that institutions, educational providers are looking to see as we’re looking at a more robust educational and ecosystem here. So I’m going to jump in though. I want to really want to focus now and talk a little bit about just the meat and potatoes of this report. The intervention strategies here are so, so rich, and so if we can just maybe take a couple of moments and unpack some of the intervention strategies that you realized were best practice and some of the things we’re seeing that may not be new interventions but have been repurposed or re-engineered. So, I’d love to hear from both of you around those.
Kerry McKittrick (15:26):
Absolutely. I’m happy to jump in. I think across the board, work-based learning really has a strong evidence base behind it, and we know that the most equitable types of work-based learning are paid. So if we look at apprenticeships or paid internships, these really allow students the opportunity to gain the soft skills that they need in the workforce, which are so often not taught in the classroom, to really build connections and social networks and mentorship that will help them grow and find opportunities later as well as just apply what their learning in the classroom to the workforce and understand what their passions are, whether they’re excited, build their resume.
There are so many important pieces here, and what we try to do is we label these as career immersion experiences, which students are able to get into the workforce and experience it for themselves on the job. And we know that some of these apprenticeships, these paid internships are pretty resource intensive and not all colleges and their partners are going to have, even though these are the best models, apprenticeship has been around for a really long time, they may be more difficult. And so there are other options like experiential learning projects and courses, for example, that may be slightly more feasible but can still integrate these core principles of on the job experience for students and all of the richness that that gives them as they’re moving forward in their career.
Dr. Cristi Ford (17:05):
So good to hear. I want a little follow up there because one of the things that, as you mentioned, work-based learning isn’t new, but you focused and highlight in the report on compensated work-based learning and internships and apprenticeships. You also talk about what happens in inequity, what happens when there aren’t compensation. Can you just unpack that a little bit more and talk about why it’s so important that we compensate these models?
Kerry McKittrick (17:34):
Absolutely. I mean, when you have unpaid internships, not all students are going to be able to participate in those. If you have a working student, for example, who has to make a rational choice about the use of their time, they could either be paid in a job that they need to maybe support their current living conditions or they can get this experience, which honestly doesn’t have necessarily the clearest incentives around it to be honest. It’s the rational choice to opt for something that’s going to pay them, whereas higher resource students have the time, have the ability to do these unpaid opportunities. And so if we’re only providing work-based learning to students who are already high resourced, then we’re just exacerbating these gaps and we’re not really solving this problem of economic mobility, especially for students of color, for students from low income backgrounds and immigrants. And a lot of these populations that face more barriers.
Joseph B. Fuller (18:41):
Kerry, another reason paid internships are very important or paid work experiences are very important because it means the employer’s got skin in the game. And so that means someone is thought about this, they’re going to create a work-based learning experience, which is substantive if it’s going to generate a return for the employer, it’s got to be real work. Well, a learner, an aspiring worker needs that actual experience. And in some of our related research we found is that even compensated work-based learning opportunities, if it isn’t well curated, if they’re having a manager who understands they’re working with a working learner as opposed to a new employee or a free resource that just happens to be available, you get worse results.
So you need to have the employer thinking about this, being serious about it, seeking to get value, making the investments to create a realistic enough experience so the worker is both learning while they’re earning, and the free intern who sits around and makes coffee and does some extra filing and someone tries to think of something for them to do that in addition to being only something that’s available to people who can afford that time and have a lifestyle and personal circumstances that allows them to do that, it’s not substantive and neither side of learning anything that’s really going to have value in the marketplace.
Dr. Cristi Ford (20:39):
I really appreciate that focus… Oh, go ahead, Kerry.
Kerry McKittrick (20:43):
I just wanted to build on what Joe was saying and say that I think he makes a great point around the policies themselves, just having a system there, having a program isn’t enough. You really need the managers. You really need the training in the company to make sure that it’s carried out in a good way. Because if it’s not carried out substantively, if it’s not aligned with learning goals and if it’s not providing substantial support to students, then it’s not going to be successful, as Joe was saying.
Dr. Cristi Ford (21:13):
Yeah, and as I’m listening to you all, I’m thinking, Joe, you mentioned some conversation pieces earlier around the importance of the student learning path. And talk with me a little bit or our listeners a little bit about where are these other areas where breakdowns can occur and what are the challenges when those breakdowns happen for learners?
Joseph B. Fuller (21:34):
Well, there are several. One is mismatches, I’ll call it, where either the learner dives in, pursues a career and then even gets a job in something that’s really going to turn out to be not what they want to do. It can be the nature of the work, the actual industry or the employer, but when a learner doesn’t have much experience in a workplace, they’re often making a selection of what to pursue and where to interview, and even what job to accept. That’s based on impressions of what it’s going to be like.
We’ve seen multiple instances, for example, in fields like advanced manufacturing that people will go and get a credential, for example, at a community college in advanced manufacturing. But when they actually go to an advanced manufacturing plant, which are huge and allowed and often freezing cold if they’re highly aircon and the work is very demanding and a bit relentless and you have to signal to your supervisor, you want to go to the laboratory because it might be a continuous flow operation, let’s say if you’re making iPhones.
They suddenly realize, I don’t want to be in this work setting, but they’ve already invested in a credential, and similarly it works for employers. Employers rely heavily on proxies to judge someone’s merits as a potential worker. The biggest one we’ve all discussed is the dreaded paper ceiling. Do you have a college degree or not? But they also say how selective in terms of the rate of admission is the school on. What was your grade point average and what was your major? Are those illegitimate things to consider? Of course not. But should they be essentially the only basis on which people are being selected because there isn’t better data?
The great thing about a compensated work-based learning experience for both a learner and the company is it’s effectively a rent to own model. The learner has been in the setting, understands the culture of the company, the operation of the company, what the company’s all about, what their task is going to be like. Hopefully gets a sense of what a career path in that industry or company could look like. And they can judge for themselves now, not based on impressions, what their great uncle Carl told them, or their classmate told them, or their sorority sister told them, or what they picked up on social media. And similarly, the employer is seeing that person in their workplace. And we may say, well, gosh, what happens if the employer decides that person isn’t a fit for me? Has the worker really benefited? Yes, because the worker may be getting some feedback as to why they didn’t get hired, but also they’ve got something on their resume. They’ve got something to talk about in a job interview.
So whenever a student can find an avenue, even if it’s a micro internship where you are doing a project on a contingent work basis, 10, 20, 30 hours for a company, both sides are benefiting just so long as both there’s an economic exchange, you are getting compensated, then both sides are fully committed. And that’s what really distinguishes what has a positive impact from other types of cheaper interventions, easier to implement, but that are much less effective.
Dr. Cristi Ford (25:41):
That’s really good because when I listen to you and it makes me think of many college students I’ve worked with in the past, you’re right, they have these aspirations and dreams and goals to go pursue this thing, but they’ve never had a non-academic supervisor. They have never been able to think about building their social capital. There are so many different pieces around connecting these college students to employment that I think gets lost and the good-natured and the philosophical framework that we create around, well, let’s just get them to work. And so I think you offer that there’s a lot of nuance here that we have to get better at. We really have to.
Joseph B. Fuller (26:21):
Well, we couldn’t agree more. We know that rigorous programs that have substantive work both through reports of practitioners, the type of research we do at the Harvard Business School, but also scholarly work consistently demonstrate a pattern of success. The hard part is that the greater success is correlated largely with types of interventions that are more challenging to implement. It’s really quite easy to have a career mentorship program or to have job shadowing. It isn’t that much of a commitment on the employer’s part. And it’s a little bit like no pain, no gain. If it’s really easy to implement, easy to stand up, it’s probably pretty marginal in terms of the impact you’re going to have, because as we were saying earlier, to be a success, you’ve got to have a program, you’ve got to have a supervisor that’s had some training and understanding they’re dealing with a learner here or just another new employee.
You’ve got to have a dialogue with the academic institution in many instances that the student is coming from. You may need to be engaging other parties, let’s say like social entrepreneurs that provide some critical surround services like transport or childcare that enable the person to be fully participating in your program. So it’s hard to do these things right, but the payoffs are high, not just for the learner. All of our research at Harvard consistently demonstrates that companies that stand-up substantive programs enjoy a high return on investments in so doing. So this is not an extension of the corporate foundation or commitment to community or something else. It’s good, clear-eyed, hard-nosed, smart business.
Dr. Cristi Ford (28:52):
Kerry McKittrick (28:53):
And Cristi, I love that you asked about these points at which it falls apart. And I think Joe so clearly outlined the role of the company and these work-based learning opportunities. I mean, one of the things I’ll call out in our report is that we include some design principles because every internship of course isn’t the same. And so when we think about where it falls apart or what are the key pieces that students need to succeed, we think about, like you mentioned, the social capital. We think about skills, whether they’re soft skills, both job specific skills, the information that they have access to. And so work-based learning can provide all three of these components in addition to resources like transportation, like childcare, but it requires these structures to be set up.
Dr. Cristi Ford (29:49):
Yeah, yeah. I think it’s really important that we don’t focus on a deficit model, but in really being asset-based, having an asset-based approach and solution-oriented approaches, your report helps us to think about all the nuances that are on the fringes. And so those things are just as critical as the intervention strategies itself. And so I’m really, really excited to hear that you all have thought so comprehensively about this. So I’m going to ask you this question that you probably have gotten asked a hundred times before, especially in the era we’re in around AI, and thinking about if you were to release the report today and thinking about the implications of AI on the labor market, would you have any different findings? Would there be any additional caveats that you would put in the report?
Joseph B. Fuller (30:38):
AI is in some ways one of the most hopeful developments for the labor market, in my opinion. Why do I say that? First of all, AI is going to be a leveler in terms of particularly generative AI, in terms of people’s ability to make inquiries that looks broadly at the data, in terms of things like is being a pharmacy tech or being a salesperson or being a mechanical engineer, is that a good job or not? What’s required to get a certain type of job? What does a certain type of job pay? What kind of career to people who start in this entry level role enter into? All of those questions were extraordinarily hard for people to answer today. We talked about employers relying on proxies to make decisions. Most learners make educated guesses. In some cases, Jeff guesses on how their life might unfold if they take this path or that.
I think AI is also eventually going to make the ambition to have skills-based hiring the standard in the developed world a reality because particularly in the United States where there’s no standard taxonomy of what a job requires or even standard definition of what a skill is, what are the talents and aptitudes and experiences that equip me to claim that I have a skill? The ability of AI to relate different types of texts and data to one another will give us a much better set of tools for correlating people’s lived experiences, work experiences, other variables in their submission, their job application that get beyond the degree, the grade point average, the years of experience, whether or not that you’ve very specific terms or language that are embedded in the job descriptions that the current technology used to evaluate candidates treat as gospel.
So if you use the wrong adjective or forget to mention that you’re highly capable in Microsoft Office, you could be undoing your own candidacy to an oversight. Those types of errors will be greatly reduced by AI. So, I think that AI is going to have an increasing role to play, and much of it should be positive.
Kerry McKittrick (33:37):
I think there are also some really interesting implications of AI and scaling some of these interventions that we see. So, there are folks out there like Mainstay for example, that have used AI for chatbots to help encourage students to stay on track and they’ve increased retention. So there are ways to scale coaching. We need the human services as well. But when these interventions are resource intensive, I mean, I’ve heard of folks using AI now to help design experiential projects based on students’ interests and what’s available in the labor market. And that is a challenge to scaling some of these experiential learning experiences.
So, I really think there’s potential for both scale as well as we’d look I think, at how colleges are educating students to engage with AI and how they are integrating AI into their coursework, into their curriculum, into the experiences because AI is a reality now in our workforce and we can’t ignore it. And we had a lot of questions that we’re really curious about how colleges are helping educate students for this reality.
Dr. Cristi Ford (35:02):
Yeah, I think it is. We are just scratching the surface on what we know and the implications. And so as I listen to you both talk, I imagine in six months we will be even having a different conversation. But Kerry, I appreciate you elevating some of the examples of where we’re seeing AI being used to elevate the conversation to move forward the initiatives. But Joe, to your point, to reduce inefficiencies and redundancies or errors that we would see, so many of the folks that join us on this Teach and Learn podcast are educators. They’re senior leaders. And so as they’ve been listening to you today, I’m wondering as they’ve thought about your report, if they’re interested in thinking about ways in which they can be more targeted, their institution. I know you all have a really great job tool, and so if we can just spend a little time explaining to our listeners how they can get engaged and use the job tool to be more systematic in their approaches.
Kerry McKittrick (36:08):
Absolutely. I think I started to touch on this at the beginning and I’m so glad you followed up, Cristi, because our tool, the College-to-Jobs Map would allow a college leader to go into their region and to see what fields have grown over the period. So it’s the period from 2015 to 2019. And then they can see who were the graduates that are coming out of my college, who are the graduates from other colleges in my region, and how aligned is that with growth? So potentially someone might see, oh, the healthcare field is growing in a huge way, but we have not been graduating students to meet this demand. Perhaps we should start investigating whether this is a program that we might want to include in our offerings.
And as I said, I really think the tool is the start of a conversation and it’s really an effort to ground the conversation between stakeholders around how they can align and if economic mobility really is core to the college mission, then being part of these institutionalized regional partnerships and using the data that we’ve prevented presented in the tool to tool to be a kickstart for that conversation can really lead to change.
Dr. Cristi Ford (37:41):
Any additional thoughts there, Joe?
Joseph B. Fuller (37:43):
Well, I think the tools like this are also a means for educators to take a look at, as Kerry was suggesting, essentially would amount to the supply they’re creating relative to the demand that’s there, and to also look at not just the programs that their institution provides, but many administrators have some sense and faculty members have some sense of who else in the locale has got competitive programs over there. So really knowing what are all the other institutions who are, let’s say, creating mechanical engineers or creating people with accounting degrees or people with sales training. And that’s going to be important for a couple of reasons. One is, and it gets us back a little bit crafty to AI, the composition of work is really going to change as a function of AI, especially for white collar workers of the type in jobs that both many college enrollees aspire to and have traditionally filled.
So the understanding what’s out there is going to be important, but also as employers get more focused on helping create a more robust supply of qualified workers, they’re going to need to work not just with individual educational institutions, they’re going to have to work with the educators that are in their region, community colleges and four year institutions, and I hope K-12 systems, high schools in order to build curriculum starting early that supports the type of skills development that will make people employable and good household sustaining work. And also in allowing some institutions to go deeper and to specialize a little bit so that you don’t have everybody deciding that they need a program in, I’ll just make something up, in video game programming and two or three institutions in the same city start investing in creating a program to serve a few employer’s needs.
And some of those investments are redundant. None of the programs are built to scale, and they’re a disappointment. There’s not enough resource being given to the higher Ed sector for administrators, faculty leaders, to squander any of it. So it has to be deployed more effectively. And that since about 85% of people end up spending their careers within 50 miles of where they’re educated or where they’re born, it really is a regional thing. And we have to think about higher Ed clusters that serve the industries that are local and have steady demand for new workers in jobs that are at the bottom of a ladder or the beginning of a pathway that leads to economic independence and security and therefore coordinating across the sector and using the heft of the Ed cluster to engage commercial leaders and policymakers, state legislators, mayors, governors.
We think there’s information in this type of analysis that will help with that. And we are keenly interested in people continuing to invest in developing new and better tools that whether they’re commercial, they’re selling that data commercially or they’ll make it available as a public good to reduce the amount of confusion and misinformation and fog, if you will, that makes it too hard to make smart decisions for the learner, for the chancellor, the president, the head of a faculty or for a chief human resources officer that’s supervising recruiters looking for talent.
Kerry McKittrick (42:25):
One of the interesting things about the tool is it allows you to also dive into the demographic data. So, you can take a look in your region at occupational segregation, for example, and you can see within the labor market where that occurs. So potentially these are high paying careers, but there aren’t enough black workers in this career. And then you can look back down the pipeline and say, well, where is this starting? Is this starting in college? And we can say, well, let’s investigate then the graduates in this field, and we can see if it’s perpetuating or potentially starting to mitigate this challenge.
Dr. Cristi Ford (43:05):
I love that example because first, thank you both for giving such great insight in terms of a call to action for our colleagues, but I really appreciate, Kerry, where you talked about really looking at underrepresented groups of individuals or marginalized students that really trying to find the root cause of where did this challenge actually start. So it’s really good that you can also be able to disaggregate some of that data as well.
So as we wrap up today, I guess the only thing I have left to ask you both Kerry and Joe, is what’s next on your horizon? I mean, this is all such empowering impact for work, and there’s still so much I know that you both are doing. So we’d just love to end with you each telling me a little bit about what’s on the horizon for you.
Kerry McKittrick (43:51):
So the next steps for this project have already started. So we have been convening experts in the fields for small discussion groups around key themes that we found during our research, whether that is longitudinal data systems, more equitable work-based learning, stronger employer college partnerships, themes like that. And we’re bringing folks together to really dive into the challenges and key solutions and highlight examples in the field. And in the next phase of this work, we aim to publish memos that provide real concrete recommendations to stakeholders across the ecosystem for how to address this disconnect between college and the labor market that we highlight in this work.
Dr. Cristi Ford (44:40):
I love that. Joe?
Kerry McKittrick (44:42):
A couple of large projects that we’re really looking forward to sinking our teeth into. The first is that we have a very, I’ll describe it as high level and stylized understanding in the United States of what’s a good job, what constitutes a good job, how is a good job experienced by the occupant as opposed to described through statistics like how much it pays or how many hours are worked, how predictable the hours are. So, we’re going to have a very extensive piece of research on both how employers think employees evaluate a job in terms of being a good role, but also how different types of workers define attributes of a good job. Because a good job for an anesthesiologist at a hospital is different than a good job for someone who’s a shift worker at a quick service restaurant.
The second thing, which is very closely connected to this research and to where that is going, as Kerry described it, is really starting to understand what jobs are good, what we’re calling internally pathway jobs, what are the types of jobs that seem to correlate most consistently with people getting on a career pathway that leads to economic security and provides the skills and experiences that enable someone to respond to and overcome the challenges posed by changes in the requirement of work.
In the 1960s, if you learned a skill, many skills that people learned then basically had a useful life of 20 or 30 years. So, if you learned how to do a couple of tasks and you did them well, the work didn’t change so much around you that you were suddenly at risk of losing your job or being made redundant or irrelevant. The average life of a software-based product of a version of a software-based product, now two and a half years. So we have to recognize that all jobs are not created equal in providing a basis for developing not just a specific, what we’d call hard skill or technical skills, but the critical social skills that really are required in today’s workplace. Not merely to get a job, but to advance communication skills, teaming skills, problem solving skills, and also the capacity to learn and not be intimidated by new things.
Dr. Cristi Ford (48:00):
Really, really good. Joe and Kerry, really great to have you. Listeners, please, please follow up with the project on Workforce, Joe and Kerry and the four other authors are delivering the degree, the College to Jobs playbook, really rich information and opportunities and call to action for our listeners. So thank you both so much for joining us today.
Joseph B. Fuller (48:22):
Cristi, a pleasure being with you. Thank you.
Kerry McKittrick (48:27):
Thanks for this fun conversation, Cristi.
Dr. Cristi Ford (48:45):
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