1 million students with bachelor’s degrees return to community colleges to learn skilled trades

I was startled to see the number [actually, the reported number is 940,000 which is close enough] in this very timely story in the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/more-people-with-bachelors-degrees-go-back-to-school-to-learn-skilled-trades/2020/11/20/06404180-2aa9-11eb-9b14-ad872157ebc9_story.html

We all understand the tremendous debt burden that far too many American students carry with them well into their 30s after graduating college. Paying for college during the pandemic, when millions of middle class and even more low-income families are out of work, makes its own case for the value of learning “hard” trade skills.

“The trend [of grads enrolling at community colleges] is also exposing how many high school graduates almost reflexively go to college without entirely knowing why, pushed by parents and counselors, only to be disappointed with the way things turn out – and then having to start over.”

A third of students in college change their majors “at least once” and “more than half take longer than four years to graduate,” according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Amy Lloyd, VP at Jobs for the Future, is quoted: “That makes four-year universities and colleges a really expensive career exploration program.” It’s hard to argue with this in the context of this story.

The data on how much more is earned in a lifetime by those with bachelor’s degrees is not disputed, but this story helps dispel the long-held bias within the higher education community – and perhaps by middle class parents who want to see their children achieve more than they were able to – towards the technical training widely available at the nation’s community colleges.

The economic strain which is now strangling many small colleges and those with weak endowments, will, I’m sure, force many institutions to make hard choices in the next few years. Hundreds of thousands have been laid off in the higher ed industry -many adjuncts and also full-time faculty in the humanities and social sciences – and we will have to see which academic departments survive after the pandemic ends.

Meanwhile, I’m certain that, in the short-run [which could be 3-5 years], high school seniors may have to adjust their sights on the type of “higher” education their family can afford. The sorting out of the complex inter-relationship of the pandemic, economic slowdown, unemployment, and career decision-making of high school and college-bound students is going to take a long time to unravel.

Case Study: Flattening Learning in a virtual service-learning course

This essay appeared on the site of the new World Council on Intercultural Learning and Global Competence, https://iccglobal.org/ : How Can We Foster a Mobile Mindset While Sheltering in Place? It discusses what happened as a course at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, predicated on a mobile cross-cultural learning model, was suddenly transformed due to the Covid outbreak.

It’s a question on the mind of every student, faculty member and family around the U.S. – and no doubt, anywhere on the planet.

The faculty authors came to these conclusions:

“The process of reframing and reflecting on these three courses during the pandemic allowed us to draw pedagogical implications for ICC development using digital spaces. Among them:

  • ICC development is possible in novel and innovative ways through online means
  • The pandemic flipped the scripts on mobility and privilege
  • Dis-location with technology can bring location and mobility to the ICC forefront 
  • Instructors need to create space for unplanned/emergent intercultural encounters 
  • Educators should foster a mobile mindset as it relates to our teaching, even when mobility is not logistically possible 

From this brief essay and others like it written since last summer, the success of online learning – whether intended for a domestic or an international environment- has everything to do with the talent, imagination and technical skill of faculty. I’ve read of those who think that going forward, new criteria for hiring faculty may, of necessity, include evidence of IT skills.

Revisiting Ethical Perspectives on Study Abroad in a COVID-19 World by Scott G. Blair, PhD

Consultant in International Higher Education

Copyright © Scott G. Blair, 2020

In light of the globalized origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and now the struggle to gain wider awareness, particularly in the United States, of the depth and breadth of systemic racism across society, the D.I.E.+ process model of analysis might just help students better contextualize and situate their unexpected confinement and loss of experiential learning opportunities in 2020, for which a virtual internship or study abroad is, I submit, a poor substitute.

Describe: Students today are pretty well-versed in the process of describing the perfect rising storm of our current unjust and unsustainable world. Climate disruption, collapsing biodiversity, resource depletion, rising inequality, uncontrolled human migration, increasing demographic pressure, and overall declining human happiness—these are problems students have learned to describe with disconcerting ease and precision. They see and know what’s going on. What is perhaps new to them is just how urgent and interconnected these wicked problems have become. The full crisis is unfolding before their very eyes—decades ahead of time—and it’s almost, well, indescribable! Students are right to be anxious and alarmed.

Interpret: Asking and understanding why things are the way they are is something students find more difficult. A study of history, philosophy, ethics, literature—and study abroad—is really crucial but too few universities impose sufficient curricular requirements in such areas. Plus, let’s remember that, often, there is no good reason for things to be the way they are. So, if you know your history—how human attitudes, values and social structures came to be as they are—it’s a lot easier to detect the injustice and privilege embedded in a given system. But without historical awareness, what we see around us we mistakenly take as natural and normal. Yet, by experiencing cultural difference in historical contexts—across both space and time—students grow in interpretive power. And in doing so, they become more skeptical, more questioning, more ethically grounded, and, importantly, more demanding. And we need this turn of mind now more than ever.

Evaluate: Once students appreciate that structures of power and privilege were purposely built into core social systems over time—e.g., health services, nutrition, education, employment, housing, policing, due process, penal incarceration and, yes, access to education abroad—they are better able to identify the minority who benefit most and who naturally view such systems and processes conservatively as something both natural and just. Free trade and market capitalism, for example, have become the basic organizing principles of our global economic order. But in the absence of the necessary corollary of such world capitalism—a global political order of rules and regimes able to control how it all plays out—globalization will increase inequalities and protect the undue and often unearned privileges that finance and capital provide. Students know this system is unfair and unsustainable and they are getting pretty good at evaluating the power, privilege and self-interest that is involved in being part of a status quo. It’s no surprise that they are judging it harshly.

+ Action: Learning to ask what it would take to change the status quo—this is where students have the greatest potential for weathering today’s perfect storm and enacting real and lasting social and political change. The individual and collective actions they are employing for challenging the status quo and global “order” might just work: i.e., engaging in widespread, sustained, and peaceful protest; demanding that politics align with science; supporting international and cooperative strategies for tacking global problems; rejecting nationalism and go-it-alone diplomacy; demanding accountability and transparency in public affairs; recognizing one’s own implication within current unjust and racialized social structures; applying critical thinking skills when using media; and perhaps the most important—voting. Make no mistake: in a democracy, changing the status quo doesn’t take a lot of people making a huge effort; it only takes a lot of people doing a single simple thing—voting. As such, the fate of the planet probably now depends on how many people often classed as minorities—the young, ethnic groups, people of “color”, women, the apolitical—decide to express themselves across the rest of 2020—in the streets, in conversation, in the media, and in the voting booth. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

By the end of 2020, over three-hundred thousand US students will have seen their study abroad programs recently cancelled, moved-online, delayed or significantly altered due the COVID-19 pandemic. The lives and educational plans of over a million international students in the US will have been similarly disrupted, and such disruption is likely to continue into 2021. Put bluntly, a very great number of students will simply miss the opportunity to study abroad during their college years, and this with the corresponding loss of intercultural learning and personal development that comes with it. At best, they might substitute study abroad with curricular, co-curricular and community-based intercultural experiences on campus. But even internationalization-at-home will suffer to the extent that fewer international students will be on campus to help drive it. These are hard times for international, intercultural, and experiential education. And this is likely to last for some time.

Yet, there is some consolation. Students can use the D.I.E.+ process model of analysis to better describe the ecological, culturalized, and globalized origins of the COVID virus that so upset their lives.  The model can help them better interpret how and why the virus infected and killed people in different percentages depending upon social, economic, and ethnic injustices embedded into different societies and cultures. It can empower them to evaluate the permissive causes of its speedy propagation across a globalized world and the failure of political leadership to respond with global and collaborative counter-measures. And with the murder of George Floyd and subsequent light thrown onto wider problems of police brutality across the globe, the model suggests important ways to upset the status quo and start challenging and changing the global order through action.

If positive social, political, and ecological change comes from all of this, and if young students and their allies see themselves as a driving force behind it, both in their own local community and across their living planet, then let’s hope they’ll take these lessons in intercultural learning and personal development as outcomes even more valuable than what they might have acquired through a semester of study abroad. It’s true: study abroad can change your life. But at this crucial moment in history, it might be better that students change the world.

A Vision for Advancing Knowldege and excellence by creating a new model of american higher education

Michael Crow and William Dabars of Arizona State University have written a book outlining a model of a more equitable higher education system in the U.S. : https://issues.org/the-emergence-of-the-fifth-wave-in-american-higher-education.

Their argument is put this way:

“Granting increasingly exclusive status to the privileged few guarantees that the interests and agendas of elite universities will drift farther from the needs of most citizens. To strengthen the public purpose of higher education, it will be necessary to leverage the synergies between access and excellence, thereby empowering the nation’s research-grade universities to advance discovery and innovation that contribute to broadly distributed prosperity and societal well-being.”

They make the point that following the recession of 2008, “… many of the students who would most benefit from this most obvious avenue of upward mobility (i.e. obtaining a college degree)—those typically categorized as socioeconomically disadvantaged or historically underrepresented—cannot gain admission to research-grade universities, even as deindustrialization and
other structural features of the economy contribute to ever
greater economic inequity.”

Their new book, The Fifth Wave, takes on what we all know is true about American higher education. That it is fundamentally structured to provide a first-class education to an elite few in our society. Efforts by top-tier institutions to enroll low-income and minority students are not making any headway at democratizing access to degrees which will change the socio-economic status for anywhere near a majority of these students.

Crow and Dabars put it this way: “Educating students who graduate in the top 5% or 10% of their high school classes is business as usual at most leading colleges and universities. The Fifth Wave aims to educate to internationally competitive levels of achievement the top quarter or third of all 18- to 24-year olds, and through universal learning frameworks to provide opportunities for lifelong learning to more than half the population of the United States.”

Their vision really comes, I think, at a good moment as we are all struggling to see beyond the horizon of this pandemic and come to terms with what the future will looks like.

Students Have got to vote!!!

Reported today in the Times Higher Education:

US students overwhelmingly backing Biden and determined to vote

Sign supporting the Democratic Party on a shabby rack beside the road

Source: iStock

US college students overwhelming favour Joe Biden in this year’s presidential election and are determined to cast their votes, a nationwide poll has found.

The online survey of 4,000 students enrolled in four-year degree programmes, commissioned by the Knight Foundation, also found that about half plan to vote by mail and nearly as many fear an unfair election.

With a close contest possible in this year’s presidential race, the ability of Democrats to expand the traditionally low rates of student voting is among their keys to defeating Donald Trump.

A larger survey earlier this year by the Knight Foundation affirmed that challenge, at least among younger voters more generally. It showed that US citizens aged 18 to 24 were less interested in the 2020 election than even chronic non-voters.

The new survey, focusing only on college students, was conducted in early August just as reports began emerging of the US Postal Service cutting operations in line with Mr Trump’s warnings that he would fare poorly among voters using mail.

A New Game Requires Moving the Goalposts for International Education

I’d like to call attention to this excellent analysis by Matthew Clausen, Business Development Advisor to the Texas International Education Consortium (TIEC): https://www.tiec.org/news/rethinking-internationalization-metrics-during-covid19 . I’ve re-worked its title, but, the idea he posits is that Covid has clearly altered the way that international educators view the endgame on our campuses. Clausen has brought together useful metrics and juxtaposed several points of view. For example:

Clausen asks: “Should we take this moment to reconsider what we truly mean by internationalization of higher education? What is the point of internationalization and should we have been limiting ourselves to those narrow metrics all along?” No. And the pandemic has pulled back the curtain on Oz.

Robin Lerner, president and CEO of TIEC, asks: “What are the core takeaways we want for our students from an international experience? Maybe that’s an understanding of how to problem-solve for issues that don’t respect national borders, cultural competency that will serve them later on in the workplace, or the confidence and flexibility that come from students testing themselves outside of their comfort zones. As we design virtual programs, it’s those outcomes of international experience that we need to use as not just our measures of success but our road map.” An excellent statement of what the future of internationalization-at-home might look like.

Cheryl Matherly, Vice Provost for International Affairs at Lehigh University asks: “What does international education look like when it is not defined by mobility?” It is forcing a reconsideration about what is the purpose and what is the aim of what we do in the field. If your sole measure is body count, you are putting a priority on the travel experience.” The new “look” should be one of more equity; one featuring far more diversity of minorities and low-income students sharing in the benefits of intercultural and cross-cultural exploration at home as well as abroad.

Ukiah Busch, director of public private partnerships at Partners of the Americas points out the obvious: “The advantage of virtual exchange is equity, but I don’t think it is as impactful in terms of a personal learning and formative experience, as there is no way to do cultural immersion in a virtual exchange.” I agree, but the advantage of greater equity is not a minor gain for the field which has struggled to democratize access to education abroad for decades!

Lastly, Matherly asks: “If the new programs and pathways that are developed or deepened are always viewed as a poor second to travel, then we will have done a disservice. She puts the charge on the higher education community…It is incumbent on us to make the case. What is ultimately the value of the experience?

My take is that any other case to be made puts forth a false choice to students. It’s not either learn abroad or learn less at home — we can’t overlook how few students have ever participated in international education outside the US [less than 10%]. Higher education must now face up to the fact that very little has been offered to the mass of students not going abroad. Covid presents an opportunity to widely expand similar -but not the same- learning outcomes for ALL students. With the curtain pulled back by this virus, the challenge is clear.

My Point of View on Study Abroad and Its Impact on student Career Development & Employability …

Education abroad, in particular, study abroad , has been absent in the Spring/Summer of 2020 – and will not return as a viable off-campus learning experience, until an effective global vaccine against the Covid-19 virus is found and widely available. However, my analysis and pitch in these two videos remains, nevertheless, relevant .

When campuses fully re-open – let’s hope this will happen for the 2021-22 academic year,- there will be , I hope, pent up demand by students to participate in education abroad programs. And going forward, let’s also hope that campuses renew the halted momentum to diversify participation in education abroad by minorities and low-income students.  I see the Black Lives Matter movement as having a forceful impact on the priorities of co-curricular campus programs, like study abroad and international internships,  in support of equal access to these experiences, .

These two presentations,along with the body of my research and writing, articulate the value of cross-cultural experiential learning in strengthening student employability outcomes upon graduation.

As the global economy recovers- and admittedly, this will take several years – employers will still need talent with the same breadth of skills and competencies that were important before the pandemic overwhelmed our daily life.

Global Career Compass

I hope you enjoy watching these presentations which deliver my point of view – well known if you follow me here or @tillman_marty – on a topic which continues to resonate on campuses and with private organizations in the international education field.  This year, the political turmoil in the United States and within the EU over “Brexit” promise to fuel ongoing concerns about a downturn in global student mobility; this, in turn, will impact – perhaps tamp down – the expansion of opportunities for students to build their employability toolkits.

Impact of Learning Abroad on Student Career Development & Employability

 Panel Discussion: IIE Survey of Impact of Study Abroad on U.S. Students (2017 IIE Generation Abroad Summit)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PL_Y0KW_VDtAiLAP67cF6GXnb1HYsL9NxV&t=533s&v=vZeoMZ4CaBQ&app=desktop

The session analyzed findings of the IIE study, “Gaining an Employment Edge: The Impact of Study Abroad on 21st Century Skills & Career Prospects” showing that study abroad contributes to the…

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Looking Beyond Degrees in hiring

In the midst of the pandemic, there are again renewed calls for re-thinking the value- and ROI- of a college degree [and the requisite residential life surrounding being in a classroom]. We know the impact of Covid has hit harder in minority communities; that minority students are disproportionately impacted and their capacity to pay for their degree has been greatly affected by the tremendous job losses throughout the country. I view this discussion within this context as consequential, in particular, for community colleges where almost 50% of all minority students are enrolled).

In the recent issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education’s newsletter, The Edge, reporter Goldie Blumenstyk discussed the new executive order of President Trump which urged federal agencies to “look beyond degrees.” She reviews the pros and cons….:

Hopes — and doubts — about new attention to skills in hiring.

This month I wrote that I wasn’t sure what to make of President Trump’s executive order urging federal agencies to look beyond degrees in hiring, especially since it came as colleges face their biggest headwinds in memory. I appreciate the insights many of you shared.

Advocates for skills-based hiring tend to see it as a way to level the playing field for qualified job candidates who happen not to be college graduates. And some of you see the federal move as an opportunity for higher ed. Rovy Branon, vice provost for the University of Washington’s Continuum College, said that while degrees can signal mastery of skills, colleges need to do a better job of accurately capturing and verifying that. Now is the time, he said, “to create faster and cheaper pathways for a new market that wants and needs it.” And Shalin Jyotishi, of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, noted that “sometimes a degree isn’t the only/right credential a learner needs, and that’s OK.” Jyotishi, the assistant director for economic development and community engagement at APLU, also put in a plug for an op-ed he just co-wrote, arguing for embedding industry certifications into degree programs, an approach that was popular with readers of The Edge when I wrote about it in December.

Less positively, I heard from folks wondering whether the new order would create confusion — and perhaps worse. Matthew Hora, of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, worried that implementation could emphasize assessments of so-called “soft skills” like communication that are “cultural constructions” and could “open the door to even more hiring discrimination.”

A related concern for me: In recent weeks, we’ve seen a bevy of announcements from colleges, companies, and nonprofits about new programs to help people skill up, especially in the digital realm. The list includes Google’s new career certifications and scholarships, Microsoft’s “global skills initiative,” the Digital US coalition, and the new nonprofit SkillUp. As well meaning as these initiatives seem, they miss the bigger issue — that many of the 40 million newly unemployed people didn’t lose their jobs because they lacked skills. They lost them because the pandemic shut down their workplaces.

Maybe that’s the jolt that will prompt some to find better jobs, but skills alone won’t guarantee a shiny new career. Better coordination of state work-force policies, as this new effort calls for, could help. Ultimately, though, we need a much stronger, growing economy, and that is at least a few years away, if we’re lucky (and if more people would just wear masks). Without a recovery, this Huffington Post reporter’s assessment is worth remembering: “Re-skilling is sort of like playing musical chairs: People are racing to grab a job and sit down, and not everyone will get a seat.”

Education abroad and the student employability gap (looking ahead to the return of student mobility…)

My latest blog for @TheEAIE discussing why, “In a post-Covid world, the agenda of higher education systems throughout the world will remain, of necessity, closely aligned with issues of global workforce development.”

https://www.eaie.org/blog/education-abroad-student-employability-gap.html

There is evidence of a widespread gap in understanding among students about the value of international experience to their overall studies. This produces a mismatch between student expectations and those of employers, who expect the experience to better prepare students for the workplace. To close this knowledge gap, the benefits and impact of learning outcomes from well-structured international experience for student employability need to be effectively communicated to students and their families. One way to do this is through increased harmonization of messaging and advising practices among faculty and education abroad program administrators

Employability Amplified: The Power of Global Internships

I am especially pleased to share this guest post by Davina Potts, an Australian colleague whose research -on the impact of education abroad on student employability- I’ve widely cited in my work on this topic. She is currently Associate Director, Careers, Employability & Global Learning at the University of Melbourne. This blog follows publication of her latest research for the International Education Association of Australia, “Career Outcomes of Learning Abroad.”

_________________

A new study on the Career Outcomes of Learning Abroad for graduates of Australian universities has found that global internships provide significantly greater work-related benefits from the perspective of former participants, than other types of learning abroad programs. Participation in any type of learning abroad promoted positive growth in skills and competencies that were relevant to the workplace. However, the impact was amplified for respondents who undertook an internship, professional practicum or clinical placement while abroad.

The COVID-19 global health emergency has thrown our world and our higher education systems into chaos. Against this backdrop, it may be difficult to understand why these results are important. Considering that the classes of 2020 and 2021 will be graduating into the worst economic conditions we have ever experienced, employability is more important than ever. Our students will need extra support to enter an intensely competitive job market. We can use these research findings to provide additional support by helping them to reflect on their international experiences and related skills development. More than ever, they will need to be able to tell their story and convince prospective employers of the value they will bring to their organization. And if they have undertaken a global internship, they are already a step ahead.

The Career Outcomes of Learning Abroad project surveyed more than 3,300 alumni of Australian universities who participated in learning abroad programs to understand the connections between international study, careers and employment. The study included respondents from 36 of 39 public universities, a broadly representative, national sample and is the largest learning abroad outcomes project conducted in Australia. The final report has recently been published by the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA).

The study included participants of all types of learning abroad programs including classes at a host university, study tours, research and internships. Two hundred and eleven participants (6.3%) indicated that they undertook an internship as the main activity of their international education experience. Across 4 areas of career impact, internships were rated as providing significantly greater benefit than other program formats. These areas were:

  • Developing skills to support your professional role
  • Obtaining your first job in your field of study
  • Obtaining subsequent career-related jobs
  • Developing your professional knowledge

Across nine employability skills tested, internships had a significantly higher impact on:

  • Teamwork, and
  • Problem-solving skills

(differences reported here were significant at the P=.05 level).

These findings are important because of the endorsement they provide for the value of global internships. This is an area where we need more evidence to advocate for our work, and to demonstrate to students the possible return on investment for the time, effort and cost of gaining international work experience. 

It’s important to note that the characteristics of internship participants were different to the overall sample – they were more likely to be studying a health discipline, to have studied abroad for seven weeks or less, and were more likely to be working for a public or non-profit organization. They were also more likely to be graduate students when they studied abroad.

Moving forward, institutions have the opportunity to build more opportunities for work experience programs into their learning abroad offerings. While the findings of this study are particular to one national context, they support similar findings in other countries and there are good reasons to believe that global internships can provide all graduates with a competitive edge in the job market. I am advocating for Australian universities to use this time of pause in regular learning abroad operations to partner with organisations (providers, companies, government agencies etc) to build internship and other practical experience programs. When our students are able to travel again, we will be ready and able to support even more students to undertake internships abroad.

In 2019, the Australian Government introduced performance-based funding for universities. In the future, 40% of the possible funding available under the scheme will be awarded based on graduate employment outcomes (specifically, employment status 4 months after graduation). For our institutions, guiding our students to success in employment has become more important than ever before. Learning abroad, specifically global internships, are one tool available to support graduate success.

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