Department of Education Stresses Job Skills

Today’s article discusses the link between education policy and the skills needed for a successful career.  As Martha Kanter clearly knows, students are too often allowed to leave school without the necessary emotional, social and practical tools to be effective in the world of work.  The sweeping movement towards educational standards in the United States must include skills and metrics that stretch far beyond test scores and graduation rates – and Kanter’s efforts to link labor and education are a step in the right direction.

 In order to be successful, students need critical thinking skills, an awareness of their gifts and talents, the emotional intelligence to build up a network of supporters and the internal motivation and maturity to make a positive impact both in the classroom and in the workplace.  LifeBound’s Critical and Creative Thinking for Teenagers helps students develop all of these skills through the lens of medicine, nature, entrepreneurship and other core subjects.  Learn more here:

Job Training Is Stressed at Education Dept., State Leaders Are Told

Santa Fe
, N.M.

Martha J. Kanter, the U.S. under secretary of education, told state higher-education leaders gathered here on Wednesday for their annual meeting that she would make improving job training a priority.


She said she wanted to better align federal education and labor programs that often operate in isolation from one another even though they have complementary goals of preparing people for the work force.


“I really want to marry work and education in a more systematic way,” Ms. Kanter said. More than half of the nation’s college students work while they are enrolled, she said, and federal policy does not do enough to make sure they can effectively balance work and study.


Ms. Kanter spoke to the State Higher Education Executive Officers’ meeting on her 15th day in office. In those first few weeks, she said, she had already met three times with officials at the Department of Labor. Today she and Jane Oates, the Labor Department’s assistant secretary for employment and training administration, will appear together before a Senate subcommittee on employment and work-force safety to discuss their priorities for revamping the Workforce Investment Act, which provides money for job training at community colleges and elsewhere.


As an example of the disconnect in the current system, Ms. Kanter cited a federal youth-employment program. She said money was distributed through local Workforce Investment Boards without any emphasis to program recipients that they should continue their education to improve their long-term job prospects.


State officials praised Ms. Kanter’s remarks.


Jack R. Warner, executive director and chief executive of the South Dakota Board of Regents, told Ms. Kanter he was “very pleased to hear” that she planned to push for better coordination and alignment in job-training programs. “I really find a disjunction there,” Mr. Warner said. “Higher education needs to play a stronger role” in such training.


The question of how state and federal governments should help working students came up at a conference session about rethinking student aid. Sandy Baum, senior policy analyst for the College Board, said that one needed public-policy conversation was how to best allocate financial aid to adult students. The central question for many students is not how they are going to be able to pay tuition itself—the focus of much current student-aid policy—but how they can afford to pay basic living expenses while classes and study are preventing them from working as many hours as they could, Ms. Baum said.


Global Competition


On the issue of global competition, Ms. Kanter reiterated the Obama administration’s goal of stepping up American performance so that the United States is atop the world by 2020 in the proportion of residents who hold a degree or certificate. She said her recent conversations at the 2009 World Conference on Higher Education, held by Unesco in Paris last week, had given her ideas for how the United States might improve and made her concerned about how the country could slip behind.


Canada’s experience, she said, showed that an emphasis on helping colleges, students, and others adopt best practices—rather than putting a focus on accountability alone—could foster rapid improvement in student success. Her talks with Chinese officials demonstrated how actively other countries were also seeking to move up, she said.


During a question-and-answer period following her speech, Ms. Kanter fielded a question about whether the federal government should make at least some education beyond high school available to everyone.


Ann E. Daley, executive director of the Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board, asked whether the Obama administration had considered a new financing model for higher education, in which the concept of the government’s providing everyone with a public education through the 12th grade would be extended to at least a 13th year.


Ms. Kanter said the idea was “certainly worth looking at,” although she did not know whether it was something administration officials were specifically considering.

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