Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs in Metropolitan America

This edited volume, courtesy of University of Pennsylvania education professor Laura Perna, addresses the widening gaps between the education qualifications of the population and the demands of the job market. Since a different analyst wrote each chapter, we are presented with a smorgasbord of data and recommendations. But readers should at least seek out Nancy Hoffman’s excellent chapter on career and technical education. She shows how our country’s large number of high-school drop outs and paucity of associate-degree holders has resulted in an economy with a surplus of careers for which nobody is qualified, while many ill-educated workers vie for relatively few low-skilled, low-wage jobs. Hoffman urges our school system to provide students with education and training towards a specific calling. This would keep kids in school and on track for real jobs. To achieve this, she indicates that we need—among other things—better communication among high schools, employers and community colleges as to the skills these students will need to succeed in the workplace. From this neck of the woods, it is evident that the “college-for-everybody” push has led many well-meaning (and/or politically correct) Americans to grow squeamish about recommending “career” education. (For recent examples, just peruse the reactions to Mike’s recent Slate article questioning college for all.) But quality career and technical education ought to be an option for all schoolchildren, not just ones from less privileged backgrounds. Maybe it’s time to think about what’s good for young people—and for the nation’s economy.

SOURCE: Laura W. Perna, ed., Preparing Today's Students for Tomorrow's Jobs in Metropolitan America (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013).

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