Links of Note 8/24/16

The Hidden Costs of Low Literacy in Australia [SBS News]
Nicely organized explainer with compelling personal stories.

Rauner Signs Juvenile Justice Reform bills [Chicago Tribune]
Governor Rauner said the legislation was just one step in a larger effort that should address, among other things, the “lack of job skills” among the prison population in Illinois.

Coding Boot Camps Attract Tech Companies [Wall Street Journal]
“The Flatiron School’s 12-week course costs $15,000, but earns students no degree and no certificate (my emphasis). What it does get them, at an overwhelming rate, is a well-paying job.”

Here’s Proof That the Economic Recovery Is Over [CNBC]
What I thought was interesting here is the notion that despite the generally good news regarding employment, there is evidence to suggest that many of these jobs are not “quality jobs.”

“If the employment condition is booming why are payroll taxes falling?

There are a couple of answers to that question and neither is favorable. The BLS numbers are either wrong or the quality of new jobs created must be very poor. The latter response seems the most credible; a combination of an increase in the proportion of part-time workers and full-time jobs that provide lower compensation.”

This Helpful Chart Reveals if a Robot Is Coming For Your Job [Business Insider]
McKinsey report that purports to predict the likelihood of jobs becoming automated by analyzing work activities rather than occupations. Interesting that such human qualities as patience, empathy, and kindness aren’t on their list. Work that involves caring for others, such as caring for the elderly, sick, children etc. is an area of employment that is growing and where future needs will be great. I can’t imagine these jobs being done very well without empathetic, human interaction, even if technologies are used to assist.

I welcome your suggestions.

Final WIOA Rules Published in the Federal Register

Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) provides the legislative authority for all federally funded adult education programs. Unless you are deeply involved in implementing WIOA at the state level, or are responsible for WIOA-funded programming or technical assistance, the pile of regulations that have been developed for WIOA are likely of limited interest, but I thought it was worth noting that the U.S. departments of Education and Labor have announced today the publication in the Federal Register of the final version of those rules:

All of the final rules, along with several guidance documents, are available at the www.ed.gov/AEFLA.

Links of Note 8/18/16

Launching a new semi-regular feature today: occasional posts that simply compile links to announcements, new research and other news about adult education or tangentially related topics (probably more of the latter), with little to no commentary from me to get in your way. Just click and go. There are those who will describe these kinds of posts as “curated links.” I’m not one of them, but if you are, then you have the basic idea.

I welcome your suggestions.

In Many Courtrooms, Bad Interpreters Can Mean Justice Denied [Pew/Stateline]
“Because there are so many U.S. residents — roughly 25.6 million — who have limited proficiency in English, the credibility of the nation’s justice system relies on competent interpreters.” I witnessed this problem firsthand in Boston courts 25 20 years ago; it seemed to me that non-English speakers were often targeted for minor traffic violations. Many were frankly terrified and the lack of translation services certainly didn’t help.

DACA at Four: Participation in the Deferred Action Program and Impacts on Recipients [MPI]

  • “Examining DACA application rates against the MPI population estimates suggests that 63 percent of the immediately eligible population had applied as of March 2016; the rate fell to 48 percent when including the share that did not appear to meet the educational criteria but may have enrolled in a qualifying adult education population.”
  • “[T]he vast majority eligible to renew the two-year DACA grant have done so—93 percent MPI estimates.”

Lessons From a Year Teaching Digital Literacy [Pacific Standard]

Veteran Hillary Clinton Education Adviser Named to Candidate’s Transition Team [Politics K-12 – Education Week]

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton Say They’ll Ease the Burden of Child-Care Costs [Real Time Economics – WSJ]
Summary of the two major party candidates’ proposals.

Overlooked: Women and Jails in an Era of Reform [VERA]
“Women in jail are the fastest growing correctional population in the country—increasing 14-fold between 1970 and 2014. Yet there is surprisingly little research on why so many more women wind up in jail today. This report examines what research does exist on women in jail in order to begin to reframe the conversation to include them.”

Two Lingering Suspicions About Economic Statistics [Bloomberg View]
Helpful primer (for me, anyway) on data smoothing (such as the seasonal adjustments made by the BLS to unemployment data) and “Pollyanna creep,” defined here as the likelihood that changes in economic indicator measures/calculations that make the economy look better are more likely to be implemented than changes that do not, resulting in a cumulative effect that is increasingly removed from reality. “[C]hanges made in the calculation of inflation over the past quarter-century… have come under the most fire.”

 

New Study: Skills Gap in Manufacturing Mostly About Math and Reading Skills 

Phys.org reported earlier this week on a soon-to-be published new study by Andrew Weaver of the University of Illinois and Paul Osterman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that takes a critical look at the claims of a skills shortages in the U.S. manufacturing sector.

The paper would appear to be a follow-up or expansion of a paper that Weaver and Osterman produced for the Economic Policy Institute in 2014.

In general, Weaver and Osterman find that U.S. manufacturers’ skills gap claims are overblown, and the most of time they are in fact able to hire the skilled workers they are looking for. But the paper is more nuanced than that. By looking more closely at the precise skills manufacturers are seeking, they were apparently able to identify the types of skills that, when in demand, are most closely associated with longer-term vacancies. What jumps out from their results is that the demand for higher-level math and reading skills is a much more significant predictor of long-term vacancies than other skills:

“What fits with conventional wisdom is higher-level math skills being predictive of having a higher level of long-term vacancies. The other predictive skill demand, surprisingly enough, is higher-level reading skills,” Weaver said. “This debate frequently gets framed as a pure science-, technology-, engineering- and math-skills shortage, but it turns out reading also is a robust predictor of longer-term hiring difficulty. It certainly gives a more nuanced picture of skill challenges in manufacturing, and it really cuts against many of the prevailing narratives about the American workforce.”

If true, this has important implications for adult education policy and the federal workforce system under WIOA, which in my experience is driven more often than not by an underlying assumption that math and literacy skills are essentially prerequisites for the attainment of the industry-specific and more technical skills that employers seek. In other words, while I know that there is an emphasis on program models that integrate both, there is a perception, on the ground, at least, that adult education essentially feeds the training system. That’s a bias that’s been baked into the system for some time. But what is suggested by this study is that the most urgent demand is for academic skills: workers who are highly skilled in math and reading, period. In other words, to put it simply, improving literacy (beyond even just basic literacy) would most directly address the skills gap (at least in manufacturing). Which in turn suggests, perhaps, a need for a greater emphasis in our workforce system in those skills—and perhaps an even greater challenge for adults in the manufacturing workforce with very low literacy to achieve not just greater proficiency but “higher-level” skills in both math and reading.

That’s my quick take. Take it with a grain of salt, as I haven’t had a chance to read the yet-to-be-released study, or even finish my first cup of coffee for the day. One thing missing from the Phys.org story is whether the paper includes any discussion about the degree to which wage stagnation has created an appearance of a gap (i.e. the workers are there, just unwilling to accept the wages being offered), but based on Weaver and Osterman’s earlier work on the skills gap, I would expect that it is.

Update, 4:30pm ET: Fixed some typos and grammatical errors that made it into the original post, which was rather hastily constructed this morning. I should remember to finish that cup of coffee before pressing “send.”