Solving the Middle Skills Gap at Harvard University

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Joseph Fuller, Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School, joined the podcast to talk about the “Middle Skills” jobs employers have a consistently difficult time filling, and higher ed’s opportunity to serve and credential this critical market.

We need to always reinforce the messagethat there is dignity and work, that being someone being a real person,doesn't hin john having that four year degree it hinges on the type of citizen,neighbor, productive, contributing member of society. You are you're listening to enrolment growth,university from helic education, the best professional development podcastfor higher education leaders looking to grow in roman at their college oruniversity, whether you're looking for fresh and roman growth techniques andstrategies or tools and resources. You've come to the right place. Let'sget into the show, welcome back to an roman growthuniversity, a proud member of the connect edu podcast network, i'm ericwilson with the helic education and we're here today with joseph fuller,professor of management practice at harvard business school. Joe welcome tothe show. Thank you right delighted to be with you decided to have you hereand talk to you today about solving the middle skills gap. Before we dig in.Can you get the listeners a quick background on your role of hbs? Well,i'm a professor of manager of practice and teaching our mba program. I alsolead a long term project at the school called managing the future of work inwhich we examine issues affecting the evolution of work, mostly in thedeveloped world, that a policy maker or particularly a business,executive or institutional leader should be taken into account. So we don't just focus on skills orthat's a major area of our work. We talk about and examine automation, howcare economics and and familiar concerns influence productivity andwork, skilled immigration, the relationship between hired and skillsand work readiness. So it's a pretty...

...broad prode, but we're trying to givedecision makers practical insight into how they ought to think about adaptingtheir organizations to be ready for the way work is evolving yeah and it isthat future of work focused an i'm excited to dig in with you today,specifically in an area that i don't hear, talked about potentially enoughin a high red joe. Perhaps to kick us off today. Can you start us off withthat high level, definition of middle skills and perhaps their correlationwith consistently hard to fill jobs for employers? Middle skills is commonlydefined as a skill base set of competences, anindividual that can only be obtained by getting some type of post secondaryeducation or certification, but that simultaneously don't require a collegedegree. So an example of a middle skills, job in a classic one would be a skilled construction worker carpenter,a pipe fit or electrician a welder where you have to get to become ajourneyman. You have to get through a certification program where you learnthose skills. No one wants a self taught amateur electrician to otherwiring their home, or for that matter a self taught deaf lignes right, sowhether it's a vet tech, a dental, hygienist, also skills like the abilityto repair a heavy dd truck engine or lots of skills in business likebookkeepers or accounts payable or kind of receivable clerks or market andmarketing analysts. They don't necessarily have to have a four yeardegree. Although the trend over time in the united states has been to have morejobs and more employers who offer those jobs requiring a four year degree forjobs that were historically at a gray...

...area for did not require college degree,yeah joe you've done some really incredible and fascinating research inthis middle skill space going back to the great recession. What do we know sofar about the pandemics effects on these middle skills? Jobs? Well, it'slike most things. It's a pretty broad based istemi effect. The first thing isis knocked back the education plans of a significant number of aspiringworkers, so there were dramatic increase in the number of people thateither suspended permanently or postpone plants go to school. Of course,we saw that in the enrollment numbers had community colleges, which are thereally the evilly, the biggest source of middle skilled talent in the unitedstates. The second thing is that certain middleskills, jobs like the ability to repair a truck engine or, if that matter, todrive a eighteen wheeler over the road, heavy duty truck the man really pickedup, but other middle skill jobs. Let's say those in the hospitality secker oran aviation tech, someone repairs jet engines as engine hours went down inthe in the travel industry, significant reduction of demand,certainly for new workers and emotions, furlough or layoffs for incompatworkers. So it's been up. It's been a very uneven distribution. You mentionedthis concept of this kind of falls into a gray space, and i think when i askedyou that question about boy, i'm surprised hyra doesn't talk about thismore. I think you potentially answered that in terms of yeah, we're not surethat's the market that we serve. So i'm curious as you've studied this groupand and part of the economy so carefully. How should hired think aboutserving ideally credential in this middle skills gap? Do we force uponthem or for your degrees that we're accustomed to or do we think aboutsomething different? Well, it's a very...

...interesting time because, of course,the worth what paid for debate in hir it, especially for four yearinstitutions is raging and more parents and learners want a representation that investing theirtime and money in getting a degree is going to lead to an economic outcomethat justifies the investment. Strangely, a lot of the disciplinestaught it through or off the socie, with middle skills, a fit with a lot ofthe jobs of to morrow, so oftentimes pital, skilled jobs have to do withlearning a technology, and if digital technology becomes ubiquitous in allsorts of jobs, of all different colors white collar blue collar and everythingin between having the capacity of an educationalinstitution to impart those. What are generally called hard skills becomesmore important. So i think that for four yearinstitutions being cognizant of the fact that the attributes we attributedto college graduates historically, that they would have high self efficacy andwork ethic they'd have good written oral communication skills. They wouldknow how to tackle a problem. Those are now being supplemented by ourrequirements to have some inability, if some ability or some some aptitude forboth learning and working with technology and that's often limited toour computer science programs in a higher ed institution. Let'sdistinguish also two year institutions from four year institutions. Communitycolleges historically have been the fount of a lot of middle skills workersand in about half the states. Cte programs and competency based programsare fill a significant part of community college curricula in theother half of the state. There's states...

...there's a higher emphasis on generalstudies and preparing students to matriculate two or four yearinstitution to get on that more normative path that we associate with with theamerican dream. I think, what's very important thing for educational leadersis to dignify in the way they describe what their institutions do and and intheir commentary on education issues, especially with an administration. Thatseems to be very, very inclined to do some big things in the sector to reallydignify the types of jobs that are associated with middle skills, withonly forty per cent of to day's eighteen year olds likely to graduatefrom a four year institution and that's, of course, an average which, in whichasian americans and caucasians historically will have been overrepresented an african americans and his panish will be under represented.We need to always reinforce the message that there is dignity and work, thatbeing someone being a real person, doesn't hin john having that four yeardegree it hinges on the type of citizen, neighbor, productive, contributingmember to society. You are let's talk about that posture of dignity,specifically when we're talking with local employers. You mentioned thesystemic nature of the pandemic and how hard it was equally or at least oneveryone to varying degrees. When we're looking at employers who maybe in ourcommunities, who are going through a lot and trying to navigate and figureout what next looks like for them dealing with critical criticalretention issues? What could our posture be from a partnership stand? I,from a consultation standpoint, in terms of, should we not only see or foryour you know, degrees as good up skilling credentials, but should wethink about this middle skills group...

...and this idea of hey employer, let'sthink about how to up skill, your entry level workers to this middle skilledjobs in order to create a better pathway program within yourorganization, to increase your retention? What should that posture andconversation look like with our local employers? Well, i think it's really animportant issue you're touching on here eric, because the velocity of change injobs is such now, and particularly the technological requirements and theactual technology being used is turning over so fast. That is more or lessimpossible to expect an institution of higher education to keep up with thatto know what the state of the art is to be able to change curriculum thatquickly. In many cases where you have to have hands on learning to be able tochange the software licenses, your own, the hard war you've got to teach peopleon. So we absolutely need to convey not jift to employers but to educators andto policy makers. Is we need a significant increase in theavailability of work based learning that is part of degree attainment,whether it's associates degree attainment or bachelor for creatinethat it's only in the workplace, that people really master skills? And it'sincreasingly only in the workplace where the approaches and thetechnologies you need a master to be qualified to get a job are accessibleto a learner. So whether it's a coot program, of course, i'm from boston,where we're northeastern university is the absolute platinum standard in termsof cooperative education, whether it's something like that or a much greaterbroadening of what constitutes apprenticeship in the united states orwork based learning, even starting in...

...high school, where you have innovativeprogram for like career, wise colorado, where you've got kids as part of theirhigh school degree. Completion are working for an employer, often at thesame time, doing some dual enrollment studying at a local community college,the kind of very serial a b to see you go to high school. You graduate you goto community college and then metrica to a four year college or you go tocommunity college, then enter the workforce, and it's all very linear andand the educational resources of the country expected to create and kind ofat the end of the diploma line, deliver to the workforce. Someone who is ableto get a life household, sustaining a level job that kind of wrote,railroad track model just doesn't fit any more with where technology is so.What we need is to both get more flexibility on educators and morereceptivity and effort by educators to encourage employers and are in the typeof relationship. We need more employers to stop expecting that. The way theworld is supposed to work is they're supposed to be able to enter the spotmarket for talent and find exactly what they were looking for on demand, and weshould be saying to policymakers, particularly now at thefederal level. Look you can do things like have free community college andthey're pros and cons to that, but you're just changing the coefficient unone variable in equation. That is increasingly at a think with what weneed as an economy and as a society which is more people in good, payinghousehold, sustaining level, jobs which...

...have a future and that really reallybenefits from compensated work. Bafe learning that is part ofdegree completion. So the learner understands that you know i am gettingarticulation into course, credits for this and i'm earning enough, becauseover fifty percent of community college students are working learners. So i'mearning enough to pay my bills to stay in school. To complete this program sothat i can get a good full time job and that requires everybody rethinkingtheir definition of success. Educators can't say we're all about education,and you know we went not a trade school and the you know the employer reallyhave to understand what we need from them: yep, fair enough and vice a versa,joe tremendous tremendous thoughts. Finally, can you leave us with somenext steps? Advice here for instuted? Listening to this excited about it,it's sidly nervous about where to move forward, but they want to better, serveand better solve for the middle skills cap both to better serve their ownstudent population, as well as to help service their local employers. Whereshould they start first well? First, they should be very active and engagingemployers and trying to understand how employers view the product theycurrently create in the form of their graduates and the second thing theyshould do if understand that merely creating a more mature young adult whohas a good communication skills good to self avic, good research skills forsome level of presentability. That's not enough anymore. Employers aresaying regularly graduates from college, don't know how to manage a project.They know how to take a course and they think in hundred day increments,because that's the length of the semester and they think about. I haveeight weeks to get this done and...

...therefore i can maybe take this weekoff, because i want to watch the european soccer championship becausei'm a soccer fan and but that's okay, i'll still have in seven weeks to do myterm paper. Business is about being productive or being in a governmentagency but being doing a job every day. They're, not good, and not skilled, notexperience on working teams, especially teams of people not like them, but thati don't mean so much racial or gender diversity. As a sixty year old, a fifty year old, aforty year old somebody calling in from the mumbai office, you know a gig wor,skilled, gig worker, complicated teams. I think the the other thing they shouldbe doing is is experimentin and educational institutions generallyaren't good at the experiment. Strangely enough, maybe they are in thecamel hab but they're, not in terms of curriculum, and, i think trying someexperiments with employers or partnering with outside non traditionalvendors are not talking about textbook suppliers or whatnot, but i'm talkingabout technology companies or others that to see if they can create newcurriculum that relate quips equips people to have a better launch into theworkplace. Final thing i would do, i would be upgrading my career andprofessional services office by placement office, and one of the thingsi be doing is getting data from and making it accessible of the studentsabout things like what jobs are available in health care in high techin manufacturing in professional services. What are the job descriptionsactually say, and how can we help students map what employers say,they're seeking with our course catalogue, so that we're not just leaving thestudents to muddle through and and...

...submit resumes to the the employers whohappen to hire our institution, expand that population of suppliers give thetu of recruiters give the students much better access to market data about whatjobs are actually on a offer. In a community you want to live in what dothey pay and then what do they require so and that the freshmen should behaving that conversation and more data, more engagement than ployers and moreexperimentation with curriculum and particularly aggressive experimentationand moves into work base, learning to think so much for your time. Yourthoughts and your continue to research in the space. What's the best place forlisteners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions well eric,they can contact me through the faculty landing page of my my bio at theharvard bines school. So if you go to the harvard bistecche website and go tothe faculty to have we'll find me at the end of the fs, fuller and then alsowe have a project worksite managing the future of work. So just google that atharvard business, school mangione future work hard, physic school. All myresearch is up there. Our podcast series we have almost two hundred nowup is available there and searchable there, and we have a new letter. Peoplecan sign up for awesome, joe thanks so much for joining us today. Eric mypleasure, attracting today's new post, traditional learners, means adoptingnew enrollment strategies. Helic educations data driven enterprise, wideapproach to enrolment growth is uniquely helping colleges anduniversities thrive in this new education, landscape and helix has justpublished the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook, with fiftypercent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's mostpressing, enrolment growth challenges download it today for free at heloseducation, com, playbook,...

...you've been listening to enrolmentgrowth university from he licks education to ensure that you never missan episode subscribe to the show in itunes or your favorite podcast player.Thank you so much for listening until next time.

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