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.

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.”


Going After the Scammers

(Updated Below)

The New York Times story yesterday on the Workforce Investment Act is related to the post I published yesterday. I realize there are political and strategic challenges associated with calling out public officials when they make possibly disingenuous calls for more job training. But calling out scammers like those described in the Times should be much easier. They should not only be called out for what they are, but workforce development advocates should consider aggressive, proactive initiatives aimed at taking them down. It’s the best way to distance the good stuff from the scammers. Defensive responses—sure-these-guys-are-bad-but-look-at-all-the-good-things-that-WIA-does-and-it’s-not-my job-anyway-its’-the-states-and-being accountable-is-hard etc.—is probably not going to be good enough to stem the erosion in confidence that the presence of these outfits have on the whole system.

UPDATE 8/19/14 11:15 AM: By the way, I largely agree with my colleague Mary Alice McCarthy’s criticism of the Times article, (and would be foolish not too, as her knowledge of this subject is about as good as there is), and recommend anyone interested in the subject go read it. In particular, I think she’s right that the Times does not do nearly enough to make it clear that the student indebtedness problem has to do with problems in our higher education system, rather than WIA. And since that is the entire point of the article suggested in the headline and subheading—that WIA is leaving people in debt—that’s a pretty glaring mistake.

But I don’t think that this takes anything away from my point above. I don’t think the people scammed by Daymar College and their ilk really distinguish between our higher education system and our workforce development system, and I imagine that they would find debates about who is at fault to be something between irrelevant and irritating. They were out of work and needed help, and got screwed. In such cases the WIA system may not be at fault, but the entry point for these folks may have been WIA. I think workforce development advocates can do more than just say, ‘this is a higher education problem, not ours.’

Under both the old WIA and the new WIOA, one of the success measures for a program includes transitioning participants to postsecondary education and training. Clearly for the people profiled in the Times, that transition to postsecondary hasn’t worked out too well. So OK, not WIA’s fault. My point is that it might be a helpful for workforce proponents in general to do more to identify and do something about these terrible programs, whatever legislative authority it falls under. Of course, how to do so, I have no idea. (McCarthy suggests higher ed reformers look to the recently passed WIOA legislation as a model for higher education reform.) What do others think?

UPDATE 8/25/14: Bob Lanter, Executive Director of the California Workforce Association raises similar objections to the Times piece in this press release.

Where We Are

(Updated Below)

You can have food, but only if you train for jobs that don’t exist:

Sherry Hooper, director of Food Depot in northern New Mexico, said demand for food help is up 30 percent since 2008. Ranching, mining and tourism industries that once supported residents of the remote area have fallen on hard times, she said, and because of rural isolation, many poor families have to shop at gas stations. “They’re expecting people to seek jobs that are just not there,” she said.

A spokesman for the state human services department, Matt Kennicott, said the state wants people to be more self-sufficient but is not trying to take benefits away or save money.  Unemployed workers can keep food stamps if they can document job training, he said. “There are jobs available,” said Kennicott. “The people in the work force don’t necessarily have the skills required by those employers. We need to get those people trained.” (my emphasis)

I fear there is still too much of this kind of policy disconnect abroad in the land. Are there jobs or aren’t there? You can’t make an economic collapse go away by shouting “job training” at it. Denying food stamp benefits to people who truly cannot find jobs is terrible policy for fairly obvious reasons. But tying food stamp eligibility to participation in training is also terrible policy. It’s clearly unfair if training is not available to everyone who needs it. I have no idea if there is enough job training available in this part of New Mexico to meet the demand, although I’m willing to bet there’s not. But even if there is, it’s still terrible policy, because there will always be people who need these benefits who won’t be able to participate in job training (due to age, disability, etc.).

And training people to do jobs that don’t exist doesn’t make any sense either—again, for fairly obvious reasons. Most responsible workforce advocates understand this, but it appears to me that some policymakers think that simply saying the magic words “job training” somehow obviates the need to address poverty and unemployment in a humane and coherent fashion.

UPDATE 8/20/14: I slightly rewrote the last sentence of this post to more accurately reflect the point I was trying to make.