Community Colleges and Workforce Development in the New Economy
Stephen G. Katsinas
Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Administration and Higher Education
Oklahoma State University
Obviously, more education of a different kind will be needed if a new generation of Americans is to become productively employed and find satisfaction in a world dominated by new, complicated tools. These more sophisticated work force needs, set against a backdrop of declining national productivity, make human resource development key to economic growth. (Boyer & Peltason, 1988)
If the lively conversation that is America's democratic political rhetoric is to have practical meaning, it is good that campaign rhetoric be tied to governing policy. Within this context, that one happens to agree or disagree with the general "world view" or specific programs of President Bill Clinton (or any other president) is unimportant. The underlying premise of this paper is that there is a strong tie between the rhetoric of the 1992 campaign and the policies proposed by the new Administration with regard to workforce development, and that the assumptions underlying the proposals of the campaign were in fact based upon a coherent "world view" that community college practitioners can understand and use to positively influence the laws, policies, and regulatory processes as they unfold.
During the 1992 presidential campaign, candidate Bill Clinton proposed the most comprehensive set of initiatives by the federal government in social programs since the Great Society of Lyndon Baines Johnson. A few of these changes include "ending welfare as we know it," tying funds for training and education opportunities directly to workers to promote continuous worker improvement, attacking adult literacy, and improving school-to-work transitions. Even if only part of this agenda is achieved, it still has the potential of dramatically changing the way community colleges do business. For this reason alone the policy proposals and assumptions behind them deserve close scrutiny by community college administrators, staff, faculty, trustees, scholars, and policymakers.
The tie from campaign rhetoric to governance in office for the Clinton Administration appears to be at least as strong as the tie that existed for the first Reagan Administration, described by Martin Anderson in his illuminating and insightful insider's chronicle, Revolution (Anderson, 1988). This is exactly how responsive democracy should work: Whatever one's party or political persuasion, it is vital that the translation be clear or over time, accountability is lost from the system. The hope is that by becoming informed, community college practitioners at all levels can become active participants in the conversation on the front end, instead of reactive complainers on the back, most appropriately "plugging in" the positive parts of the program while ameliorating the negative so as to maximize the quality and extension of postsecondary educational programs and services.
The purpose of this paper is to discuss how community colleges fit into the new initiatives. Section One presents an examination of the Clinton "world view" regarding workforce development policy. It is partly taken from Putting People First, the campaign platform "book" written by Bill Clinton and Al Gore following the 1992 Democratic National Convention, and Mandate for Change, a collection of papers edited by Will Marshall and Martin Schram for the Progressive Policy Institute, a "think tank" associated with the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). The chapter in Mandate that specifically deals with workforce development issues is entitled "Enterprise Economics on the Front Lines: Empowering Firms and Workers to Win," and was written by Doug Ross, who now serves as an Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of Labor/Administrator of the Employment and Training Administration (ETA). The ETA directs federal employment and training programs, including those sponsored by the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA). As Governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton had been intimately involved with the DLC for nearly a decade. Published in January 1993, Mandate for Change was planned to serve the incoming president in the same way earlier Heritage Foundation reports served the first Reagan Administration. Like Mr. Ross, many of the authors of the various chapters in Mandate now hold key positions in the new administration, and thus will have an opportunity to enact into law and regulation what they advocated during the campaign.
Section Two presents a model for conceptualizing the role of community colleges in workforce development programs. Presently, there is much confusion regarding what is meant by the term "workforce development." Does workforce development mean programs that serve new workforce entrants, programs that serve temporarily dislocated workers, or programs that serve to upgrade the skills of those currently employed? Does it mean programs to serve all or parts of all three populations? The model advanced here will tie the three key populations served by workforce development programs to the current curricular offerings of community colleges, current federal programs, and the proposed Clinton initiatives. In Section Three, a definition of workforce development is advanced with a discussion of emerging issues and key concerns that in the author's view will either promote or inhibit full participation by community colleges in the various Clinton initiatives.
The Clinton "World View" and Workforce Development
This section presents the key components of the Clinton economic "world view" as it relates to workforce development. Fundamental to this, in the language of the campaign, was that the nation actually faced two deficits, a budget deficit and a deficit of investment in programs to help people and to build infrastructure to compete with what was termed "the new economy." Just what is this "New Economy," and what policy choices must Americans make to compete in it? This section begins with an examination of policy reports released prior to the nomination of Bill Clinton and a description of some of the organizations behind them, so that readers can see an apparently growing convergence of thinking between left and right regarding problems and challenges. Making these connections is important in that it is this more general consensus that the Clinton Administration policymakers responded to in both Putting People First and Mandate for Change.
Reports Authored Prior to July 1992, Influencing the Clinton/Gore Workforce Development Strategies
One of the most influential reports impacting the Clinton world view of workforce development policy prior to his nomination in July of 1992 was America's Choice: High Wages or Low Skills!, published by the National Center for Education and the Economy. America's Choice characterized the "new economy" as possessing "high performance work organizations," that prepare quality goods for which the world will pay high prices and provide high wages. Such high performance organizations will operate in a more decentralized manner, giving direct responsibility over quality control to front-line workers who work in flexible teams, to bolster productivity (Magaziner, 1990). Productivity is the key to the NCEE analysis; the following data were cited to show the decline in productivity of the American workforce. It is useful to reflect upon the tone of these direct quotations from this report, as well as the actual data, taken from the initial section describing "The Problem":
Since 1969, real average weekly earnings in the United States have fallen by more than 12 percent. This burden has been shared unequally. The incomes of our top 30 percent of earners increased while those of the other 70 percent spiraled downward.
In many families, it now takes two people working to make ends meet, where one was sufficient in the past....
The key to maintaining, to say nothing of improving, our standard of living is productivity growth--more products and services from every member of the workforce.
But, during the past two decades, our productivity growth has slowed to a crawl. It now takes nearly three years to achieve the same productivity improvement we used to achieve in one year.
If productivity continues to falter, we can expect one of two futures. Either the top 30 percent of our population will grow wealthier while the bottom 70 percent becomes progressively poorer or we all slide into relative poverty together.
Ira Magaziner, the key Domestic Policy Advisor in the Clinton White House associated with the Clinton health plan, served as chair of NCEE's Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, which authored the America's Choice report. The NCEE bills itself as a non-profit think-tank created to "to develop proposals for building a world class education and training system that the United States must have if it is to have a world class economy" (Magaziner, 1990, p. iii.). Mr. Magaziner's Commission co-chairs were William E. Brock, Secretary of Labor under President Reagan, and Ray Marshall, Secretary of Labor under President Carter. A number of major foundations including the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the German Marshall Fund of the United States provided financial support for the study. The imprimatur of bipartisan support tends to give greater "throw weight" to the proposed policy and the "world view" behind it.
Two key factors were cited in America's Choice as standing in the way of producing a more highly educated workforce: (a) the lack of clear standards of achievement, and (b) the low motivation of students to work hard in the elementary and secondary schools. The authors of the report believed that the low student motivation was attributed to the lack of a clear understanding by the student of the relationship between doing well in school and securing a good job upon completion of school. This contrasted with other advanced industrial nations, which "have stringent performance standards that virtually all students must meet at about age 16 and that directly affect their employment prospects." The following recommendations flowed from this analysis: First, that "educational performance standards" be set for all students, to be met by age 16, established on a national basis and benchmarked to the highest standards in the world. Certificates of Initial Mastery would be awarded that would allow students to choose between: (a) work, (b) entering a college preparatory program, or (c) studying for a Technical Professional Certificate, which would be offered over a broad range of service and manufacturing occupations. Employment and Training Boards would be created to oversee new learning environments that might provide alternative paths to obtaining the baccalaureate degree.
The America's Choice: High Skills or Low Wages! report was just one of a number of prominent reports that to varying degrees called for basic restructuring of the nation's public schools to promote more positive school-to-work transitions. Other reports included The Bottom Line, a jointly authored report by the Secretaries of Education and Labor (1988); America and the New Economy, by Anthony Patrick Carnevale (1991) for the American Society for Training and Development, which was underwritten by a grant from the Employment and Training Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor; and the two reports of the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS), published by the U.S . Department of Labor (1991,1992), which were designed to interface with President Bush's America 2000 education initiatives. Both SCANS reports were chaired by William A. Brock, who also co-chaired the NCEE commission that wrote America's Choice. The first SCANS report, What Work Requires of Schools, was published in June 1991; the second, Learning a Living: A Blueprint for High Performance, was published in April of 1992. These reports generally argued that public schools needed to provide a curriculum that could prepare a well-skilled, world-class workforce for a future characterized by international economic competition. It is important to note that several of the reports were critical of the public schools for not meeting this challenge.
That American workers change jobs and careers more rapidly is one of the suppositions of the Clinton Administration's workforce development initiatives. In 1900, the average American worked one job during his career (most women did not participate in wage earning jobs); in 1980, the average American worked two to three jobs during a career, and changed place of employment between five and six times. By the year 2000, the average American is projected to work between three and five different kinds of jobs, and change the place of employment between seven and ten times. As Americans live longer and healthier lives, the average length of time spent actively participating in the workforce is projected to be about 45 years.
The implications for policy of this rapidly changing workforce include a greater emphasis upon the following: (a) adaptability or "how to learn" skills will become more important, as opposed to acquiring skills for specific jobs, in that good jobs are changing at a faster rate; (b) continuous training and skill upgrading will be required merely to stay in place, much less advance, and that a means to provide this continuous training had to be provided; and (3) there should be more flexible benefits systems, tied to workers, not tying workers to the jobs. According to U.S . Department of Labor figures cited in a study by the National Council on Occupational Education, over 70% of all job classifications in the workforce will require some form of postsecondary education or training for entry by the end of the 1990s, (Martinez, Jr., & Smith, 1990).
While the major focus of most of the reports that serve as the basis for the Clinton Administration workforce development initiatives deal with the training needed for new workforce entrants and training for those currently employed, and to a lesser extent, training for temporarily unemployed or dislocated workers, there is a general acknowledgment that the nation has an underclass that must be dealt with as well. During the campaign, candidate Clinton pledged to "end welfare as we know it." Statistics like these from a 1987 U.S. Senate Report give a general view of the problem:
* Nearly four million U.S. families were expected to receive Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in 1987, a quarter of which will likely receive AFDC benefits for the next decade.
* There were about two million blind or disabled individuals receiving federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits in 1987.
* Programs funded under Title II-A of the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), the major federal job training program, received an appropriation of $1.84 billion for FY 1987, and served 1.04 million individuals, with an average quarterly enrollment of 324,000.
* Fewer than 150,000 of the four million AFDC recipients were enrolled in the JTPA program in 1987.
* The President's Commission on the Employment of the Handicapped in 1986 found that only 9.7 percent of the disabled SSI recipients were served by JTPA programs, while their unemployment is estimated to be as high as 66 percent (and two-thirds were employable with proper training) . (Katsinas & Lacey, 1989)
It is important to note personal connections between the members of private foundation commissions related to workforce development over the past seven years and key officials implementing policy for President Clinton. For example, the connection between the Clinton Administration's School-to-Work Transition legislation now before the Congress and a report released in January of 1988 by the William T. Grant Foundation Commission on Work, Family and Citizenship, The Forgotten Half: Non-College Youth in America, an Interim Report on the School-to-Work Transition, is likely more than coincidental. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the First Lady, and Mary Jo Bane, at the time a professor in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and now Assistant Secretary of Family Support Programs in the Department of Health and Human Services--responsible for the Aid to Families with Dependent Children and Job Opportunities Basic Skills programs, as well as welfare reform--both served on this commission (Howe, 1988). William Julius Wilson, Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at the University of Chicago, who was quoted in The Los Angeles Times as advising then-candidate Bill Clinton in May of 1992 on responding to the Los Angeles riots, was also a member of the Grant Commission, as was Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, President Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame. Interestingly, not a single identifiable community college practitioner or researcher served as one of the 19 members; those members did include representatives affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Chicago, and Harvard University (two members), as well as two public school officials, one from the Chicago Public Schools and the other a state superintendent in Maryland.
Taken together, these reports are oriented toward improving the secondary educational system, particularly that part oriented to serving non-college bound youth. These reports call for tighter collaboration and cooperation between business employers and educational institutions, particularly in the area of school-to-work transitions at the secondary level. In general, they also call for continuous training to create an internationally competitive workforce (without much discussion as to how this would be financed). Not as highly emphasized was workforce training for the long-term unemployed, except for the requirement of able-bodied welfare recipients to choose either education or training to gain their Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) benefits, an idea contemplated by the Family Support Act of 1988. A transitional approach was considered necessary to offer individuals who are able to work a permanent bridge to the economic mainstream, according to Shaping Tomorrow's Workforce: A Leadership Agenda for the l990s, published by the National Alliance of Business (Kohlberg, 1988).
Both Putting People First and Mandate for Change cited an under-investment in human resource/workforce development programs as a deficiency in current policy. The chapter, "Educating America: A New Compact for Opportunity and Citizenship," by Ted Koldierie, Robert Lerman, and Charles Moskos in Mandate for Change framed the issue as follows:
More than ever before, America's prosperity hinges on how well we educate and train our people. Yet our public schools are failing to meet new standards of performance being set by our global competitors. Our secondary schools are not producing graduates whose academic skills match those of their counterparts in other advanced countries. We are not doing as good a job as those of our economic competitors in preparing young people for work, a failure that strikes hardest at the "forgotten half" of America's youth who do not attend college.
For those who wish to attend college, the problem is not quality but access. Soaring costs, which rose 51 percent in the last decade for private colleges and 31 percent for public colleges (adjusted for inflation), are putting college beyond the reach of average working families. (p. 129)
Perhaps the best evidence of an under-investment in employment and training from the point of view of the Clintonians is the following statistic: In 1980 about $10.1 billion was spent in the last year of full funding of programs under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA), compared to $4.6 billion of funding in 1990 for the programs under the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), passed in 1982 (Marshall & Schram, 1993). The CETA program, created in 1973 under the Nixon Administration, was the first attempt by the federal government to aim a training program specifically at the so-called "hard core" unemployed, as opposed to the recession-fighting employment and training programs of the New Deal and Great Society eras. Under CETA, hard-core unemployed were placed into public sector jobs while gaining education and training on the road of transition from welfare to work. In the view of President Reagan and many congressional Republicans, this emphasis was wrongheaded. Their solution was to create Private Industry Councils and State Job Training Coordinating Councils composed primarily of representatives from the private sector, who would know what training would be most useful. Under JTPA, job training funds were distributed on the basis of performance contracts to public and private sector entities, who would essentially "bid" to gain the contracts, with the funding decisions made by the PICs and SJTCCs (Levitan & Gallo, 1988). Due to inflation, it would easily take $20 billion of 1990 funding to "purchase" what $10 billion would purchase in job training in 1980; thus the "under-investment" or human resource development funding gap. Table 1, "The Clinton/Gore Administration's Human Capital Investment Strategy," taken from Putting People First (p. 27), reflects this belief in such an under-investment.
|Putting America to Work||28.3||34.5||35.4||35.4|
|Rewarding work and families||3.5||5.5||6.5||7.0|
Clinton's Workforce Development Policy Proposals
Made Following the Election and Prior to Assuming Office
Attention is now turned to an analysis of the six specific planks of the workforce development proposals included in Chapter Three of Mandate for Change, "Enterprise Economics on the Front Lines: Empowering Firms and Workers to Win." This chapter was authored by Doug Ross, who prior to his appointment as President Clinton's Administrator of the Employment and Training Administration served as a Michigan State Senator, Director of the Michigan Department of Commerce under Governor James Blanchard, and Senior Consultant to the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a nonprofit Washington, D.C.-based economic development consulting firm. It is not unreasonable to assume that whatever federally sponsored workforce development programs emerge from the Clinton Administration, they will bear the six key points outlined by Mr. Ross in Mandate for Change (pp. 51 -80): (a) mobilize Americans to compete, (b) forge a new compact with American workers, (c) prepare a trained work force for U.S. firms; (d) increase productivity-building capital, (e) regain technological leadership, and (f) build an entrepreneurial climate. The basic ideas under each functional area are described below, with special emphasis on the first three sections.
Mobilize Americans to Compete. Here three major concepts were advanced: First, that President Clinton had to paint a vivid picture of the U.S. succeeding in the new world economy so that the American people would understand the policy choices and economic realities in front of them. Second, it was argued that a vision of competitive success needed to be accompanied by standards. Said the report, "Firms must know what constitutes 'benchmark standards' of world-class quality, and workers must understand the skills needed to achieve it. 'Made in America' must mean international excellence." Third, it was proposed that a new cabinet-level Department of Trade and Technology be created in place of the existing Department of Commerce to show that President Clinton's leadership would be ongoing.
Forge a New Compact with American Workers. Assuming that workers are presently changing jobs seven to eight times, and careers two to three times, and that this pace of change will likely increase,
Individual opportunity and job security today depend upon our ability to get the career skills we want when we need them. President Clinton must move immediately to give every American worker direct access to this personal source of security.
A particular job can no longer be a guarantee in an economy marked by tough foreign competition, constant technological change, and the birth and death of thousands of firms each year. But a worker's security can and must be protected by guaranteeing every man and woman in the labor force the learning resources that they require to get their next job.
Three initiatives were called for: First, to establish a federal employment insurance system; second, to substantially increase the level of private investment in worker skills training and upgrading; and third, to change the rules of the American workplace. In the view of Mr. Ross, upon assuming office President Clinton should move to supplement the current unemployment insurance system from a system that assumed a heavy manufacturing, low-skill 1930s workforce to a post-Cold War high-skills workforce. "Career Opportunity Cards" (COCs) were proposed, similar to the program that existed under the administration of former Michigan Governor James Blanchard's (interestingly, Mr. Blanchard's successor by Executive Order canceled this program on his first day in office). Under the COCs system, laid off workers, part-time workers, and workers earning less than 150% of poverty income guidelines would qualify for up to $1,200 in education and training per year, which was estimated to be the cost of "high tech" training at community colleges. Through a 1.5% payroll tax, federal funds would be provided for continuous workforce development, which would, in effect, leverage private sector funding to dramatically increase the base support for continuous workforce training. According to Mr. Ross' analysis, about 70% of all training dollars were allocated to training programs for either top management or new employee orientation. Under the new program, these funds would be redistributed, placing such funds directly into the hands of the workers. The third major initiative, to forge a new compact with U.S. workers, had as its goal changing the rules of the workplace by promoting employee stock-ownership plans, pay-for-performance, and workplace democracy, to move away from outdated 1930s-style "us-them" management-labor relations.
Better Preparation for the Workforce. The underlying assumption here was that the American educational system does a good job of training the top quarter of its people, but not so well in training the bottom 75%. Mr. Ross suggested that President Clinton focus federal vocational education funding on programs jointly operated by educational institutions and local industries, to be phased in over a three-year period. Under the proposed initiatives, these programs would require that at least 20% of the time would be spent at the worksite, that 2 + 2 programs between high schools and community colleges and vocational-technical schools be expanded, and that joint private/public sector operated boards oversee alternative means for non-college bound youth to achieve workforce skills.
Increase Productivity Building Capital. The Mandate report suggested that President Clinton "increase productivity-building capital" by amending the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act to allow banks to take and exercise long-term ownership of closely-held U.S. firms, and to exempt all capital gains taxes on equity investments in new businesses held for at least five years. These programs would correct current perceived deficiencies in the U.S. system, which were biased against longer-term productivity building investments, including high-tech training and research and development.
Regain Technology Leadership. An underlying assumption of the entire Mandate report was that high technology investments were the key to long-term economic success. Mr. Ross strongly supported the notion that America needed to regain technological leadership. This meant increased governmental and private sector investments in research and development, as well as efforts to increase the capacity to disseminate practical applications of technological changes to the so-called "batch manufacturers" that were the key to job growth in the United States. Mr. Ross cited data first reported by MIT political economist Lester Thurow: While the total amount of U.S. R & D spending was roughly equal to that of other leading technology nations, 29% of the U.S. total was allocated to defense and the U.S. ranked 23rd among major industrialized nations in civilian R & D spending. Only 1.9% of the U.S. Gross National Product (GNP) was invested in civilian R & D, compared to 2.8% by Germany and 3.0% by Japan. Civilian industrial R & D investments slowed from 7.5% during the period from 1980 and 1985 to only 0.4% during the period 1986 to 1991. To deal with this under-investment, Mr. Ross called for three major initiatives: (a) creation of a civilian Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration (DARPA), to be funded with $10 billion shifted from Defense R & D following the end of the Cold War, and that these funds be used to encourage applications of research to markets; (b) that the present temporary R & D tax credit be made permanent; and (c) that to promote the efficiency of smaller manufacturing firms, improved means of promoting technology transfer were needed.
The inability of smaller manufacturers to compete internationally led Mr. Ross in Mandate to suggest that up to 150 "teaching factories" be established across the country. These teaching factories would be designed to help improve the efficiency of the estimated 360,000 manufacturing firms with 500 and fewer employees by promoting technology transfer. According to Mr. Ross, other nations provide technical assistance to their smaller technology process intensive firms, but the U.S. does not. It was the view of Mr. Ross that University-sponsored technology transfer centers, along the lines of the long-standing extension model, would not work to fulfill this need and that instead "teaching factories" were needed, with firms or groups of firms with related processes running the training programs.
Build an Entrepreneurial Business Climate. Building an entrepreneurial business climate was the sixth and final plank in the six-part plan for "Enterprise Economics" enunciated in Mandate for Change. Three major ideas were advanced: first, anti-trust laws needed adjustment; second, a regulatory sunset commission was needed; and third, information superhighways across America were needed. Anti-trust laws needed revision, to allow for the formation of business groupings by industrial firms that do not threaten price monopolies. The justification for this was the critical long-term economic necessity of promoting manufacturing competitiveness. Envisioned were manufacturing groups that would set benchmark standards of performance so that, while competing against each other, they would still maintain agreed upon quality standards. Three existing consortia, the auto body consortium in Michigan, the machine shop consortium in Indiana, and the aerospace suppliers consortium in Florida were cited as examples of what the future might hold. A regulatory sunset commission was suggested to provide continuous reexamination, to ensure that policies and regulations that worked a generation ago quite well would not place a stranglehold on current and future firms. Information superhighways were proposed so that firms located in rural areas of the nation, including manufacturing as well as service firms, could take advantage of the new technological advancements, so that operating in a rural environment would not be a negative factor in plant location (many of the ideas now proposed by the Clinton Administration regarding rural economic development were enunciated in an article by Robert B. Reich entitled "The Rural Crisis and What to Do About It," which appeared in the November, 1988 edition of Economic Development Quarterly).
On top of the Clinton "world view" explained above, another justification for a more active role on the part of the federal government in workforce development has been the continuing sluggishness of the American economy. According to Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich, in testimony presented before the Joint Economic Committee of the Congress on April 30, 1993, during the seven previous recession-recovery cycles, significant and noticeable recovery as measured by growing payrolls had occurred 15 to 20 months following the trough or bottoming out of the recession. The average growth in payrolls, measured on a percentage basis, was between 4.5 and 7%. According to the non-partisan National Bureau of Economic Research, the current recession had in fact bottomed out in March of 1991 (this was officially announced in December of 1992, just a month after the November 1992 election). Payrolls had grown from the trough of the most current recession by only two percentage points, as compared to the average 4.5 to 7% of the last seven recessions. Secretary Reich presented additional data that showed that during the last four recessions, on average 44% of the laid-off workers expected that they would be recalled, whereas just 14% of the laid-off workers in the most recent labor market contraction (July 1990-June 1992) expected to be recalled (Reich, 1993). Taken together, all of these data indicated an economic sluggishness that in normal times would call for, if not justify, increased economic stimulus on the part of the federal government. Attention is now turned to the role of community colleges in workforce development.
The second section of this article will be printed in Volume XXIV, Number 1.