Public Education as Workforce Training. Is WorkKeys in Your State?
The above graphic comes from Holland (Michigan) School District and was provided by Karen Braun. She writes at spunkyhomeschool.blogspot.com and she believes the P-20 pathway is the path to servitude. I hope a Holland, Michigan student tests well by 8th grade as he/she will be labeled as positioned for post-secondary and career success or not. Imagine that. By the age 14, your chance of success to either post-secondary education or career path can be predicted. She provides a quote about what happens when the ultimate goal of education is career planning:
Missouri is one of seven states promoting the WorkKeys tests developed by ACT. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released a press release which contained this statement:
“The initiative is a voluntary effort guided by community leaders to align workforce and education to meet the economic needs of the state and local communities.”
It’s voluntary now but does include a cost borne by the companies to join. Joining WorkKeys might become a necessary cost to do business in the future which will help bankroll local chambers. Anne was able to cut through the press release half-truths and delve into the real reason and outcome for WorkKeys:
This is a fabulous business plan. Develop a product that promises to shift risk from the employer to your business. Get business and government leaders together to give them the marketing pitch for your product. Get government to subtly start pushing public agencies to use your product. This will allow you to shift the burden of accountability to them so the public can’t come after you. Business leaders will pressure other businesses to use the product. Once you have achieved a certain percent of saturation, everyone else will have little choice but to join. Your business model requires businesses to supply you with data, that only you will have access to, to continually enhance your product. Meanwhile student test results will fill in even more data. Requiring members to require your certificate from new hires grants you a glorious monopoly in yet another private/public partnership not approved by the public.
Hop on that WorkKeys train, business leaders, and the schools will align its curriculum to fit your company’s needs. The schools will become the training ground to groom the workers you need to flourish. Don’t join and your company won’t benefit from this “pay to play” plan. Teachers can fit the curriculum around a checklist provided by the companies signing on to WorkKeys so they can get the skilled human capital needed from the first day of employment.
When Anne wrote the article, she theorized:
On Monday I wrote, “You can be sure that, if a student needs an NCRC in order to get a job, your local school will be aligning its curriculum with those requirements.” The National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) comes from an ACT program called Certified Work Ready Communities (CWRC). Businesses that sign on to this program promise to only consider candidates with an NCRC when interviewing. The program works with government, community/technical colleges, the K-12 system, and business/industry to purportedly measure an individual’s readiness for employment. The k-12 connection means that schools are involved in this process. Some wondered whether ACT had the clout to make schools change their curriculum.
This alignment of curriculum to workforce needs is currently being implemented in Greenville, NC. Mary Paramore is a WorkKeys profiler interviewed on blogtalkradio about Connecting K-12 /Community Colleges and Workforce Education. She is Director of Business and Industry at Pitt Community College and provides the blueprint of how schools are being used to be the training ground for specific skills for local businesses. Listen to the interview at the above link. (My rough notes on the interview are below). As you listen, refer back to the Hillsdale professor’s quote and the purpose of education. Is this Pitt County program teaching children or producing functionaries? And does it cause anyone else pause that our kids are being profiled to see how they line up for business needs?
(Notes from radio interview. It runs approximately 40 minutes.)
It’s about STEM and WorkKeys. The woman is from North Carolina and involved in community colleges. She states right off this is from the Chamber of Commerce. Develop training to meet the needs of the companies.
“Flexibility of courses to meet the job needs”.
She is a work keyes profiler. Around 7:20……lots of tools. ACT. Looking at foundational skills. Use that profile. What are the skills needed to be successful? The company will train you in that way….we try to use the profile to fill any skill gap.
Current high school students: is there a gap? She sees some that are very ready. Sees some gaps. Trying to be pro-active before they get to the employer. K 12 and middle school: schools are working hard. No communication between educators and businesses.
Now you have a plastics manufacturer who needs specific skills so he tells the school what he needs. Host: The problem is teachers haven’t worked in industries. They are talented at their jobs but there is a gap between the teachers and the industry. Industry people haven’t been in school a long, long time.
Providing supply for the demand.
As she works with the schools, she profiles and looks at curriculum. Works with middle school curriculum.
Eastern Alliance representative went with her. Profiled a job. Logistics technician: Advanced mechanical line. Working w/ STEM centers. Exact profile you can apply to a curriculum. Example: Large corp comes to town. Greenville NC. Rural area. Can profile a curriculum to match the jobs. What if you worked at profiling a middle school curriculum? Amazing agenda to get STEM into school so students can explore certain careers and apply math and science to real jobs. One really important skill: locating information. Charts, maps. She is amazed when she profiles and everyone makes a chart. Now it’s a different skill to interpret a chart. Look at that skill.
Were the middle school teachers involved in this curriculum? She is nervous. The people you use are the curriculum writers. Used the teachers from around schools and curriculum writers. Everyone is protective of the curriculum. “If you are telling me that the curriculum is water management and you don’t have jobs for that, you need to look at your curriculum”.
Host: you are creating a bridge. That’s what he loves about community colleges because they are localized. Now talk about high school. Working on HS curriculum. Middle school: want to get them interested in jobs. Ties it into her sister becoming a chemical engineer. Example: great utility company. People are retiring. Utility takes on water quality seriously.
A student knows this is why he/she needs specific courses. When you profile the jobs for them they understand they need level 4 for information. Once you read information, you need to do something with it. Match that job to that foundational skill. “Here are some of the jobs we have and here are the skills you need.”
Host: where are you catching the gap? She’s catching it pre-employment. Example: food services in a hospital. Example on comparing food charts. They need to locate information. Now she has someone with that skill.
Host: Now you’ve caught it. What now? Begin to teach them to locate information or whatever skill where gap is. For free. (MEW note: nothing is for free. Is this community college providing on the job training at the college level with taxpayer money?) Do the students get it? They are getting it. The employers have list of bullet points now of what the kids can do. Now the companies are talking to the educators. Then the educators can go put that back in. When she profiled the curriculum she asks are we building the skills in the curriculum.
Example: Engines curriculum. ACT has occupational skills online now. When you finish HS in NC now….ACT certification. You get numbers. These companies are hiring w/ these numbers for these jobs. If you move into another area, what are the numbers needed? When companies come to schools, they complain. Not enough skills etc. Companies allegedly want to help get these things in the classroom.
Host: When companies see the curriculum today vs 15 years ago, the difference is cosmic. Do you share the curriculum with them? Yes. It gets them excited. She talks about welding. You have to have a level 5 in math in the work keys certification. Student does well on the assessment. He didn’t think he was good in math because he didn’t understand how applied math in the classroom is used in jobs.
Host: That’s why the curriculums are geared to help students understand how/why things work. Welder is a STEM job. Not a low level job. In her area, can pay between 80-120 K per year. STEM is not just chemical engineering. It is plumbing, car repair, welding, etc.
She talks about another job to profile: Hotel management. You have to use formulas….how many rooms can you discount, design your own resort. You don’t have any idea you are using algebra.
Here are some questions to ask:
- Should the Chambers of Commerce and those businesses buying into the WorkKeys program be the defacto curriculum writers for public schools?
- Should curriculum be written and aligned to Common Core standards for STEM jobs that only require a 2 year degree?
- What happens to the student who does not want to stay in the area after high school and attend a competitive 4 year university?
- Will such a curriculum prepare that student who doesn’t want to enter the local work pipeline?
- What is the purpose of education? Is it to mold human capital for businesses?
Be sure to click on the Holland school district link and listen to the interviews from the proponents who like and promote cradle to career profiling and a WorkKeys type of approach in education.