Educating Kids For Future Jobs

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For tomorrow's jobs, today's students will need more than just a mastery of computers. Some people believe a different approach to teaching is necessary.

In this segment of WKSU series, "New Work, New Families: America's Juggling Act," Kevin Niedermier examines what the job market might look like in the future, and how to prepare for it...

Several areas of employment are predicted to grow over the next ten years. Though setting sights on a career in the computer field is still the odds-on favorite according to U.S. Labor Department's Chester Levine...

Levine: Computer engineers, they are the fastest growing one which is expected to grow 108% which should double over that period, followed by computer support specialists, which is also supposed to double about 102%. Systems analysts, database administrators, desktop publishing specialists, paralegals, personal health care and home health and medical assistance, social service assistance, if you look at it another way, the occupation that will provide the most job growth-the top ten on that list are the largest occupations: system analyst, retail salespersons, cashiers, general managers, drivers, office clerks, register nurses, computer support specialists, personal care/home health aids, teacher assistants...
Boston-based "Jobs For The Future" helps educators adjust curriculums to meet the projected requirements of tomorrow's job market. The group's Lee-Lee Allen says schools need to change from what she calls the "sorting mechanisms" of 50-years ago...
Allen: Many students did not go beyond the 8th grade and those who did were either expected to go to college or go straight into working in the mills. And you could graduate from high school with a high school diploma and get a job with a family-supporting wage. That's no longer the case and schools need to catch up to that reality with having to prepare more students and more diverse students than ever before for a completely different economy that really requires some degree of post-secondary education.
And though more kids are going to college today than ever before, Allen says the dropout rate is very high. Dr. Harry Eastridge is head of the Educational Service Center of Cuyahoga County...the county's former Board of Education. He believes only learning to read, write, do math and work a computer will not be enough for tomorrow's job market...
Eastridge: We really don't have a good handle on exactly what there's going to be other than we need more creativity. We need people that are creative thinkers and problem solvers. You have firms coming in that are less than 100 employees and operating out of every place from garages to short-term 6 month places like warehouses doing business. You need people who are adaptable. You need people that have a strong sense of themselves as far as what they can do and their capacity. I think out of it all--all we know about the future is to get ready and to build upon your strengths because no one can exactly predict what's out there.
Eastridge says they do know fewer heavy industry jobs will be out there. That market is expected to decline by 90-thousand jobs this decade alone. And Lee-Lee Allen of Jobs For The Future says classroom structure must change if students are going to be ready for working conditions in the growing occupations...
Allen: Instead of having us teach by standing up and talking in the classroom, there would be a lot more interactive work. The students will be grouped into teams and they would be working together on projects. They would be exchanging ideas so there would be a lot of back and forth between the students, which, of course, requires some training. Teachers need to show them how to do this. The second thing is that you would see a lot more permeable walls in the school. You would have more connection with school and outside community.
Allen adds that this type of learning environment is not suitable for all students. Some still do better in traditional settings. Cleveland based Parker Hannifin is the world's largest maker of control devices for all types of vehicles and other equipment. In the mid-1990's, the company began an effort to bolster what it felt was a dwindling number of high school students pursuing careers in engineering. Human Resource and Development Manager Duane Crockrom, says they started offering college scholarships to high school students interested in engineering, and keeping those recipients engaged all year round...
Crockrom: And if they maintain their grades through college, we are going to give them a summer job every year. That helps us twofold. That gets our technology out there when they come work for us and that's assisting a young lady or a young man through the formidable years. In the sciences and engineering technology to have a broad view of what's out there in terms of career paths for them.
And the company decided it needed to help colleges prepare students for the jobs it needed filled. Parker Haffinin Training Manager Larry Schrader...
Schrader: The students that were coming out of the universities with BS degrees in mechanical engineering primarily--very, very bright young talented people, but then when they come out of school they come to Parker--it was a motion and control company. We move things and we control them. And the students had no exposure to the tri-technologies, electro-chemical...hydraulic...etc. So when they come out of school, they spent at least 3 weeks with me initially. They went through our training classes and subsequently, still had another a year to go--Plus they spent time at different divisions, finding out how the divisions work, who does what...how do I apply...when are they done, they have that real strong problem solving foundation and then, we feel comfortable putting them out as field manager.
Schrader says today, the company has established engineering labs at seven universities, including the university of Akron. He and Crockrom hope these students chose careers at Parker-Hannifin, but it is not a requirement. The company is also considering working with elementary schools to build enthusiasm for studying physics and engineering. Meanwhile, many high schools still struggle just to produce graduates who can read. But Lee-Lee Allen of Jobs For the Future says a hand-full of districts across the country have incorporated programs aimed at developing better cooperative and creative thinking skills in students, abilities believed to be essential for the future workplace.

I'm Kevin Niedermier, 89.7 WKSU.

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