Retraining is tough for ex-steelworkers

When RG Steel closed in Baltimore, laying off 2,000 well-paid steelworkers, Community College of Baltimore County offered workers a chance to retool. But college was a hard sell, despite federal retraining aid for displaced workers. “It’s a group of men who think college is for other people,” says Brian Penn, who runs the college’s heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and energy technology program.

3 million open jobs, but who’s qualified?

There are 3 million open jobs in U.S. because workers lack skills, reports 60 Minutes.

With a solid basic education, people could learn vocational skills, writes Marc Tucker in Ed Week.  Instead, people are leaving high school and college without the ability to ” read complex material, write clear expository prose, analyze problems and solve them” and use high school-level math.

A Nevada company called Click Bond needs workers who can program computer-controlled machines, fix them and ensure fasteners are made to precise specifications.

They are having a very hard time finding people who “read, write, do math, problem solve,” says Ryan Costella. “I can’t tell you how many people even coming out of higher ed with degrees who can’t put a sentence together without a major grammatical error…If you can’t do the resume properly to get the job, you can’t come work for us. We’re in the business of making fasters that hold systems together that protect people in the air when they’re flying. We’re in the business of perfection.”

. . . Click Bond, desperate for help, banded together with other employers to set up a program at the local community college. They took unemployed people—and Nevada has a very large supply of such people—tested them for aptitude, interviewed them for attitude, and then trained them for the work that was available. The students were taught to operate the computers, read blueprints, learn trigonometry to make precise measurements—all in sixteen weeks.

But it cost $60,000 to train 20 workers.

Education requirements are climbing, say many employers. In the future, an administrative assistant probably will need an associate degree.

15% of youth are ‘disconnected’

More than one in seven young Americans are “disconnected” from work and from school, according to the Social Science Research Council‘s Measure of America report. Almost 15 percent of Americans aged 16 to 24 are heading nowhere.

Globally, the U.S. has a higher rate of youth disconnection than many advanced nations, including the United Kingdom (13.4 percent), Austria (11.4 percent), Canada (10.5 percent), Germany (9.5 percent), Norway (9.2 percent), Finland (8.6 percent), Switzerland (6.8 percent), Denmark (5.7 percent), and the Netherlands (4.1 percent).

While 22.5 percent of young African-Americans and 18.5 percent of Latinos are disconnected, the number drops to 11.7 percent for whites, and just 8 percent for Asian-Americans.


Half of new grads are jobless or underemployed

Half of recent college graduates are jobless or underemployed, according to an AP analysis of government data.

While there’s strong demand for graduates with bachelor’s degrees in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities graduates are working in jobs that don’t require higher education. Median wages are down since 2000.

“I don’t even know what I’m looking for,” says Michael Bledsoe, who described months of fruitless job searches as he served customers at a Seattle coffeehouse. The 23-year-old graduated in 2010 with a creative writing degree.

Initially hopeful that his college education would create opportunities, Bledsoe languished for three months before finally taking a job as a barista, a position he has held for the last two years. In the beginning he sent three or four resumes day. But, Bledsoe said, employers questioned his lack of experience or the practical worth of his major. Now he sends a resume once every two weeks or so.

Bledsoe, currently making just above minimum wage, says he got financial help from his parents to help pay off student loans. He is now mulling whether to go to graduate school, seeing few other options to advance his career. “There is not much out there, it seems,” he said.

I majored in creative writing in the early 1970’s, but worked on the college newspaper to qualify myself for a job in journalism. All creative writing majors — and all English majors — knew that opportunities wouldn’t just open up for us. And what sort of graduate degree is he considering?  

“You can make more money on average if you go to college, but it’s not true for everybody,” says Harvard economist Richard Freeman, noting the growing risk of a debt bubble with total U.S. student loan debt surpassing $1 trillion. “If you’re not sure what you’re going to be doing, it probably bodes well to take some job, if you can get one, and get a sense first of what you want from college.”

The fastest growing occupations are in retail sales, fast food and truck driving, reports AP. A huge demand for home health care aides is projected. Only three jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher — teacher, college professor and accountant — make the government’s top 30 list of fast-growing occupations. 

Unemployed teachers find work as nannies

Parents are paying $15 to $20 an hour for nannies with teaching degrees, reports the Chicago Tribune.  Some of the new nannies were laid off after years in the classroom. Others are new graduates who’ve discovered schools aren’t hiring.

After more than 30 years as a special-education teacher in the Chicago area, Olivia Romine was laid off in June.

After unsuccessfully applying for teaching positions at school districts in the fall, Romine, 55, recently posted a profile on child-care job sites, including and She holds a master’s degree in administrative education.

“I’m not going to get a public school job because I’m too old and I’m too expensive,” she said. “I went into teaching to help kids, so either way — if I’m a nanny, tutor, baby sitter, au pair, whatever — I still feel like I’m helping the kids.”

Only one third to one quarter of  Illinois State University education graduates finds a teaching job these days. The rest are encouraged to apply for related jobs, such as day-care provider, and hope for better times.

Sarah Simanskey opened a home day-care center while finishing her master’s degree in education at DePaul University.

Pregnant as she searched for jobs after graduation, Simanskey quickly realized that if she went back to work, she would pay more for her child’s day care than she would earn as a teacher, she said.

She charges $320 to $350 a week for children who attend full time; $85 to $90 a day for part time.

. . . “I’m just teaching in a different way,” she said.

Even in hard times, two-paycheck parents are willing to spend a great deal of money for child care. After all, even mediocre care is expensive.

China cuts majors with jobless grads

China’s Ministry of Education plans to phase out majors producing unemployable graduates. If less than 60 percent of graduates are employed after two years, the major will be cut back or eliminated.

China has increased the number of university graduates by nearly 150 percent since 2000.  But some lack the skills needed by the manufacturing-based economy, notes the Wall Street Journal.

Many university professors in China are unhappy with the Ministry of Education’s move, as it will likely shrink the talent pool needed for various subjects, such as biology, that are critical to the country’s aim of becoming a leader in science and technology but do not currently have a strong market demand, a report in the state-run China Daily report said.

An op-ed in the Beijing News said the policy will encourage universities to fudge employment statistics for graduates.

Official data already shows that the country’s educated jobless, referred to as the “ant tribe,” appear to be decreasing. In 2010, 72% of recent graduates found work, up from 68% in 2009, according to the Ministry of Education.

. . . some universities have already started taking steps to decrease the size of programs that don’t result in paid positions. Enrollment in a Russian program at China’s Shenyang Normal University was cut to 25 students this year from 50 in previous years, according to a report in the China Daily.

If the U.S. government decided to emulate China, what would go? The Journal’s chart of unemployment rates for college graduates lists clinical psychology, fine arts, U.S. history and library science as the majors least likely to lead to employment, but the jobless rates are low by Chinese standards.

Letter to an unemployed teacher

In Letter to an unemployed teacher, Michael Salmonowicz of The Report Card responds to a New York City woman who graduated from an excellent university, earned a master’s degree in education and spent two semesters student teaching. She’s been job hunting for a year with only a single phone interview.

She wonders if she should apply to schools before they post an opening. Should she apply to Teach for America?

Salmonowicz suggests applying for TFA and KIPP, getting on the substitute teacher list, teaching overseas for a year or two and thinking about moving to a state with more teaching opportunities.

If there’s a school that you really like, but they say they can’t hire you solely because of budget reasons (i.e., they’d hire you if they could), then volunteer there. Develop relationships with the administration and English teachers, and set yourself up for a position next year.

If classroom teaching isn’t an option, he suggests working for Kaplan doing test prep, tutoring students in low-performing schools, tutoring wealthy kids in the Hamptoms or working for an education non-profit.

This is someone who really wants to teach. What should she do? Get special ed certification?

We don’t need more public school teachers, writes Cato’s Andrew Coulson on Big Government. Over the past 40 years, enrollment rose by 9 percent while the number of public school employees nearly doubled.

To prove that rolling back this relentless hiring spree by a few years would hurt student achievement, you’d have to show that all those new employees raised achievement in the first place. That would be hard to do… because it never happened.

How many young teachers will wait around for a year or two or three till older teachers retire and the job market improves?

Retrained, still unemployed

On Community College Spotlight: Laid-off workers who complete federally funded retraining still have trouble finding jobs. It’s even tough for nursing graduates and green jobs remain scarce. Plus, the education gap is growing.

Jobless graduate sues college

Despite earning an information technology degree in April, Trina Thompson hasn’t found a job. So she’s suing her alma mater, Monroe College, for $70,000 in tuition, reports the New York Post.

The 27-year-old alleges the business-oriented Bronx school hasn’t lived up to its end of the bargain, and has not done enough to find her a job.

The information-technology student blames Monroe’s Office of Career Advancement for not providing her with the leads and career advice it promised.

It’s only been a few months, which isn’t much to be job hunting in a recession. And I have a feeling Monroe doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee.