According to columnist Clem Sunter, a megatrend in the 21st century is that education is out of sync with the job market and changing nature of work. Sunter blames the disparity for youth unrest and wonders when schools will wake up to this fact.
The Minnesota House of Representatives on Monday April 15th approved $5 million in state general revenue to support Fast TRAC, s part of the Shifting Gears initiative to align workforce needs and education. Fast TRAC is an integrated learning program for low-skill adult learners to build basic skills and earn occupational certificates and credits toward other programs to move them through the educational pipeline faster and further.
Meanwhile, Executive Vice President Nicole Chestang at GED Testing Service released a rebuttal to the article “Some states dropping GED as test price spikes” published by Associated Press and printed in the Marshall Independent on Monday April 15. According to the article several states are dropping the GED in favor of other testing standards, but Chestang points out that this is inaccurate as most states are continuing to use the GED.
The GED test will change to a new updated computer-based test on January 2, 2014. Chestang writes that “you don’t have to look far to find evidence that the GED® test must change to remain relevant and effective for adult learners to earn a living wage.” The new GED has been designed to follow Common Core State Standards and more accurately reflect the skills and knowledge needed by colleges and employers.
Sunter writes that “Schools are educating pupils for the job market of the middle of the last century, not the one that exists now. In those days, a decent academic qualification guaranteed you a job. Nowadays most kids have to be entrepreneurs and start their own businesses.”
The new test means that some of our current learners are scrambling to finish their GED before the end of this year, while others need brand new GED 2014 study materials. In spite of the cost involved, the new test should better prepare adults for a changing job market.
The National Skills Coalition research shows that the fastest growing job market sector consists of middle skills jobs, meaning jobs that require more than high school or a GED but not a 4-year degree. Their fact sheet on Minnesota states: “Many of these jobs cannot be outsourced: from the care of our sick and elderly, to the repair of our computerized cars, to the running and maintenance of our factories’ advanced machinery, to the construction of our nation’s bridges and buildings. Middle-skill jobs can provide good wages and career paths for America’s and Minnesota’s workers.”
Obviously education continues to remain crucial in the current and future job markets. At Adult Basic Education in Marshall and other locations in Southwest Minnesota, students can enter this “middle skills” market by earning one of several certificates including CNA and industrial maintenance in addition to earning a GED. Minnesota legislators appear to support these programs with their funding approval for FastTRAC.
And of course, our tutors at Literacy Volunteers help adults improve their skills in preparation for everything from the GED to graduate school. The real question remains: Will efforts to modernize educational standards catch up to the changing job market? Minnesota appears to have a brighter future than many other places.