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Response Page - Kennedy Interview                                                  Please take one minute to evaluate our website. Click here to take the survey.


These comments are responses to the
Civic Caucus interview with

Robert Kennedy, former president of the University of Maine
January 23, 2015

Higher education must make tough decisions to improve preparation of the workforce

Overview

Higher education consultant Robert Kennedy is emphatic that visionary leadership and a willingness to change and make tough decisions characterize the universities and states leading in innovation and at the cutting edge of economic development.  Those factors are key to any attempts to improve Minnesota's postsecondary system and refocus its efforts toward maintaining and bettering the quality of the state's workforce.

He notes that land-grant universities were created to focus on technology development, economic development and job creation to help the middle class. They were to provide a liberal, but practical, education to the members of the working classes. But, Kennedy points out, over the past 20 years, in all colleges and universities, and particularly in the community colleges, there has been an emphasis on reducing technical education in favor of the sciences and liberal arts.

He states that one of the biggest errors in higher education is losing the distinction between the technical colleges and the community colleges. He says it's not necessary to undo the merger of community colleges and technical colleges in Minnesota, but we must recognize that the pendulum has swung too far away from technical education. He suggests that the schools would have a more technically oriented curriculum if they were funded to do that. He recommends putting someone in charge of recreating technical education in Minnesota.

He calls on business and industry to reach out to the leaders of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system and the University of Minnesota. By doing that, he believes business could have a great influence on shaping some of the state's postsecondary training programs. He also calls for more emphasis on improving the K-12 education system.

For the complete interview summary see: Kennedy interview

Response Summary: Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readersí zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

To assist the Civic Caucus in planning upcoming interviews, readers rated these statements about the topic on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree): 

1. Topic is of value. (9.6 average response) The interview summarized today provides valuable information or insight.

2. Further study warranted. (8.8 average response) It would be helpful to schedule additional interviews on this topic.

Readers rated the following points discussed during the meeting on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree): 

3. Crisis stems from inadequate training. (8.6 average response) The nation is experiencing a workforce crisis because people aren't being trained for the jobs that are available.

4. Reverse vo/tech cut-backs. (8.3 average response) A national trend over the last 20 years for most colleges, including community colleges, to cut back on vocational/technical education in favor of the sciences and liberal arts should be reversed.

5. Change negative views of job-training. (8.6 average response) For such a reversal to occur, negative cultural attitudes by parents and students toward work-oriented training need to change.

6. Higher-ed leadership lacking. (8.3 average response) Another obstacle holding back workforce development is a lack of visionary leadership in postsecondary education, with leaders reluctant to take chances and make tough decisions.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree

Neutral

Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Topic is of value.

0%

0%

0%

27%

73%

11

2. Further study warranted.

0%

9%

0%

27%

64%

11

3. Crisis stems from inadequate training.

0%

0%

0%

64%

36%

11

4. Reverse vo/tech cut-backs.

0%

9%

0%

45%

45%

11

5. Change negative views of job-training.

0%

0%

0%

73%

27%

11

6. Higher-ed leadership lacking.

0%

0%

9%

55%

36%

11

Individual Responses:

Scott Halstead (10) (10) (10) (2.5) (10) (5)
4. Reverse vo/tech cut-backs. The trend started in the middle and high school with elimination of vocational/technical education. We have many students that don't have the interests and qualifications for higher education, but should be mainstreamed for well-rounded vocational/technical education so they are capable of performing the type of employment available in the region and able to progress with minimal continuing technical education.

Tom Spitznagle (10) (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (10)
1. Topic is of value. One of the best Civic Caucus interviews in recent years along with Fred Zimmerman's interview of a few months back. Mr. Kennedy knows whereof he speaks. Hopefully Minnesota education leadership will listen and act cooperatively for the benefit of citizens.

6. Higher-ed leadership lacking. Minnesota universities/colleges desperately need to become more efficient at providing useful courses. Itís time to improve focus on the highest priority courses and reduce the resources going into nice-to-have courses that may be of interest to some but have limited practical usefulness.

Beverly (10) (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (7.5)
3. Crisis stems from inadequate training. Must start in the elementary school to teach imagination and responsibility.

Vici Oshiro (10) (10) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5)
3. Crisis stems from inadequate training. In part.

4. Reverse vo/tech cut-backs. Should be examined to see to what extent this is true in Minnesota.

5. Change negative views of job-training. Too much of a generalization.

6. Higher-ed leadership lacking. MnSCU currently in turmoil. Have not pursued the questions and, therefore, do not understand the problems. Not at all sure it would be appropriate for Civic Caucus to air the dirty linen even in you learn about it. But you'll not see much progress until that is cleared up.

John Milton (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)
While I agree that too much emphasis is placed on vocational/technical education, I find it more disturbing that our nation's K-12 system of public education is not preparing students for higher education. That's where the problem begins. Another serious issue that we continue to ignore in the USA is the number of classroom hours that are reduced in order to give students a 3-month summer holiday (except for the 2% of students that have to help their parents plant the crops).

Bright Dornblaser (10) (8) (8) (10) (10) (10)

Wayne Jennings (10) (10) (8) (10) (9) (9)
Kennedy nailed it in several areas. Societal pressures on kids cause them to overlook nonprofessional careers. There is too much emphasis on going to college without knowing that it doesnít have to mean more liberal arts. We should show how certificates and competencies are available to further careers. Involving industry councils in technical colleges has been very effective at keeping training relevant and up to date. We need something analogous in all fields.

Chuck Lutz (9) (8) (8) (9) (7) (7)

David Detert (8) (3) (10) (10) (10) (10)

Mina Harrigan (10) (10) (8) (8) (8) (10)
Postsecondary needs a mix of technical and liberal arts/science. Students cannot just be educated for one specific job; thinking skills are critical.

Bert Lemunyon (9) (8) (8) (8) (9) (7)

Tom Swain (10) (10) (7) (6) (9) (8)

 

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
2104 Girard Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55405.  civiccaucus@comcast.net
Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.
 

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