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These comments are responses to the Civic Caucus interview with

Laura Beeth and Connie Ireland of the Governor's Workforce Development Council
May 27, 2015

Greater collaboration essential to maintaining Minnesota's quality workforce

Overview

Mark Misukanis, formerly of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and currently a faculty member at Metropolitan State and Hamline Universities, says Minnesota higher education institutions are over-producing certain degree holders and under-producing others, particularly postsecondary industry-certificate holders. He believes we must bring the supply and demand side of higher education into better alignment in order to provide qualified people to fill estimated job openings through 2018.

He stresses that ignoring the question of employers' need for people with various postsecondary levels of education results in the underemployment of highly educated people and jobs in the economy going unfilled. Ironically, while we're worrying about having a lack of alignment between postsecondary education and the economy, Misukanis's analysis shows there has been a recent increase in the percentage of Minnesota kids not graduating from high school.

The shift from higher state aid to higher tuition is changing the way higher education institutions do business, Misukanis asserts. Now the institutions are much more sensitive to class size and are more likely to drop a class if there aren't enough students enrolled to cover the costs through tuition.

Misukanis sees the dynamics of higher education changing as it faces a number of difficult issues, among them, online learning, declining government appropriations, direct competition among postsecondary institutions, changing student demographics and skyrocketing costs. He decries the lack of transparency and availability of data on instructional costs from some institutions, which makes it difficult to know whether we're underinvesting in higher education. He contends that a governor deeply engaged in these issues could bring about needed changes in higher education.

For the complete interview summary see: Misukanis interview

Response Summary: Readers rated these statements about the topic and about points discussed during the meeting, on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree): 

1. Topic is of value. The interview summarized today provides valuable information or insight.

2. Further study warranted. It would be helpful to schedule additional interviews on this topic.

3. Students, public poorly informed. Students and the general public are poorly informed about the educational purposes and outcomes they can expect from colleges and universities.

4. Unrealistic expectations lead to imbalance. Unrealistic expectations of future incomes are producing more graduates with certain degrees than are needed by the economy.

5. Graduates weak on "soft" skills. Degree-holders often lack "soft" skills such as a positive attitude toward work, the ability to communicate, and the ability to work with others.

6. More should pursue industry certificates. Not enough students are pursuing industry certificates to qualify for specific jobs.

7. Competition leads to excess offerings. Intense competition for students is producing excessive duplication of programs among postsecondary institutions.

8. Lawmakers need better data. Better postsecondary data is needed to help lawmakers decide how much to invest in direct instructional expenses versus other expenses.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree

Neutral

Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Topic is of value.

0%

0%

17%

50%

33%

6

2. Further study warranted.

0%

17%

0%

33%

50%

6

3. Students, public poorly informed.

0%

0%

17%

50%

33%

6

4. Unrealistic expectations lead to imbalance.

0%

0%

0%

83%

17%

6

5. Graduates weak on "soft" skills.

0%

17%

17%

33%

33%

6

6. More should pursue industry certificates.

0%

0%

0%

33%

67%

6

7. Competition leads to excess offerings.

0%

0%

0%

67%

33%

6

8. Lawmakers need better data.

0%

0%

17%

33%

50%

6

Individual Responses:

Bruce Lundeen (10) (10) (7.5) (7.5) (2.5) (10) (10) (10)
3. Students, public poorly informed. Not all young people make choices based on future employment potential of the education they come upon, but they should be informed.

4. Unrealistic expectations lead to imbalance. The choice of words is poor: I would prefer graduates were not cited for unrealistic expectations. Garrison Kiellor is quite clear about the employment opportunities for English majors.

5. Graduates weak on "soft" skills. I disagree because it is these very "soft" skills that make postsecondary education desirable to participate in today's workforce.

Ray Ayotte (5) (2.5) (10) (7.5) (7.5) (10) (7.5) (5)

Wayne Jennings (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
1. Topic is of value. His assertions need to be checked and acted upon if true.

2. Further study warranted. Much money is involved and higher education needs focus that serves society.

3. Students, public poorly informed. I think the general public takes a traditional view about higher education--that it is automatically good and appropriate. This is no longer true.

4. Unrealistic expectations lead to imbalance. This is serious and unnecessary. Higher education needs greater accountability.

5. Graduates weak on "soft" skills. These are not that hard to learn and should be emphasized in elementary and secondary education. The current and ongoing focus in schooling is learning school subjects as though they were highly important for the rest of the person's life.

6. More should pursue industry certificates. We know how to do this as shown by many fields in the vocational colleges. Still, most industry training programs are larded with unnecessary information. This increases the time and the pool of candidates pursuing certification.

7. Competition leads to excess offerings. This requires greater oversight and authority by a state agency.

8. Lawmakers need better data. Lawmakers address many issues and only fragments of what higher education lobbyists tell them. It will take a major bipartisan group to lay out the picture clearly. Without that, we continue to stumble on short-range issues that may not even be important.

General comment: I think we have a bit of a mess with both higher and lower education systems. Clear objectives are needed that focus on career preparation and lifelong learning. We depend too much on tradition and the way things have been taught forever. I would like to see our state a leader in organizing its educational activities. Otherwise, we will see more drastic steps such as the recent Nevada school choice law whereby parents can keep their child's share of education revenue to use in other ways. We can do better here in Minnesota.

Paul Hauge (8) (9) (7) (7) (8) (7) (7) (9)

James Fuller (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)

Fred Zimmerman (8) (8) (9) (9) (10) (10) (9) (9)
The data that is needed is a much better understanding of what industry is looking for – including the very important sought-after character traits. We need more applied education to amplify the important theoretical education. We need to teach students things that need to be done. As an example, the most common curricula for engineering are designed backwards. We put all of the boring theoretical stuff up front before the student understand the reasons why the theoretical knowledge is important. We should let them try to build something, do it wrong, and then discover why the essential sciences are worth studying.

Tom Spitznagle (9) (10) (5) (7) (5) (7) (9) (10)
Minnesota could benefit from a comprehensive, post-secondary education strategic planning process it appears. There seems to be a general lack of direction for Minnesota’s educational institutions and a need for much better coordination between them. This planning task is best addressed by those independent of the educational institutions themselves and championed by the governor.

Dennis Siemer (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)

This problem is going to get worse:
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/07/world-without-work/395294/

What we need to look at instead of specific job skills is the ability to do critical thinking and self-education. Further, this needs to be done continually, not just when the worker is laid off from one job and needs retraining for another.

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/05/what-does-the-on-demand-workforce-look-like/393680/

It can be done, but it's going to take a big change in the way individuals look at education. It won't be just getting your ticket punched, but more like what professionals have to do to maintain certification. Even more so, people will have to consider moving between fields of work.

We'll also need to reconsider what constitutes the workweek and how we provide social safety nets.

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/06/the-40-year-old-graduates/395744/

I've often thought that liberal arts graduates should also know how to drive nails or wire a room. There's no sense starving to death while you're trying to write the great American novel.

As you can see, all of the above articles are from The Atlantic. I wonder if it would be worthwhile to interview some of the authors? I believe this subject is very important and follow it closely.

http://chronicle.com/article/Business-Can-Pay-to-Train-Its/231015/

 

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The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Interview Group  includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

  John S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje (Executive Director), Randy Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
Dan Loritz (Chair), Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, John Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow, Wayne Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmerman

 

 

 


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The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
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Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.
 

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