Work in the New Economy: Flexible Labor Markets in Silicon Valley (Information Age Series)

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Monitoring the Flexible Workforce more.

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DOI: Applied Economics and Radical Political Economics. View on rrp. Korte, Simon Robinson, John Wiley pp. Marketing , Business and Management , and Long-range planning. View on linkinghub. Benner, Chris. Work in the New Economy. Flexible Labor Markets in Silicon Valley. Bad attitude more. Science as culture. View on informaworld. Book Review: Ursula Huws ed. ISBN 0 1 more. View on gmc. Case Study.


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Salaries for graduates of these programs far exceed the norm for community college graduates. Some larger companies are working closely with community colleges and universities to design certificate programs that lead more directly to employment; these programs often include work-study elements that allow students to do internships or apprenticeships at the companies for which they wish to work. Altec, the Birmingham-based provider of trucks, cranes, and other products and services for the telecommunications and electric utility markets, has established close relationships with the educational providers in all its major factory locations.

These include many towns and smaller cities, such as Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and China Grove, North Carolina, where finding a skilled labor force within commuting distance can be a challenge.

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These geographic partnerships, which involve companies, educational providers, and state and local governments, need to be expanded, which will require initiative from the private sector and responsiveness from educational institutions. Toyota, the Japanese automotive company, has built its own advanced manufacturing technician program to provide a pathway for students seeking careers at the company.

The program begins with exposing students in middle and high schools in communities with large Toyota plants, such as Georgetown, Kentucky, to the possibility of a career with the company. Others may go on to complete four-year degrees that can then lead to senior engineering positions in the company. Importantly, the Toyota program is open—other companies seeking employees with similar skills can become involved if they are willing to offer similar work-study opportunities for students.

The program is now operating in nine states on twenty-two community college campuses. Such work-experience programs are too rare—just 20 percent of adults report having received any sort of work experience as part of their education, and most of that was concentrated in health care and teaching. Expanding apprenticeships—some of which could serve mid-career workers as well as new trainees—has been a priority for both the Barack Obama and Trump administrations.

Scaling up such efforts is going to require more than just single company-led initiatives, however.

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In particular, better data need to be made readily available to colleges and other educational institutions to help them adopt new curricula in a timely fashion, track the labor market outcomes of their students, and then provide that information to prospective students. Students in the Toyota program know with some confidence the value of the degree they will earn. For most students, however, that information is more elusive. While many community colleges try to track the job outcomes of their students, at least in career and technical education CTE programs, they rely on surveys with low response rates and rarely track students beyond the first year after graduation.

Students need far greater assurance that their investments in education and training—in both time and money—will be rewarded in the job market. The growth in data about labor market needs and outcomes has been enormous and will only accelerate.

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The federal government in particular continues to be a critical source of labor market information through its annual randomized surveys, but a growing portion of the data is now in the hands of the private sector, including companies such as Burning Glass Technologies, Indeed, LinkedIn, and Monster. Washington should expand and improve its own data gathering and dissemination, but it also needs to work closely with the private sector to ensure that relevant labor market information is made available quickly to students, educators, and employers. Significant private-sector and NGO efforts are under way to fill these gaps; the state of Colorado has been a leader here, with a series of education-to-work initiatives supported by the state government, community colleges, employers, data providers, and philanthropic organizations.

Chamber of Commerce has been pilot testing with several states a jobs registry that is intended to provide much clearer employer information to students, educational institutions, and potential employees about the credentials and competencies that are in demand.

That information, in turn, can help educational institutions develop or expand programs that lead to higher-quality jobs. One big challenge is aligning credentials with employment opportunities. The current market for educational credentials is highly inefficient, with educational providers offering potential students a bewildering array of thousands of degrees, credentials, certificates, and other markers of attainment, often without any clear knowledge about the market value of these credentials.

The Lumina Foundation, in cooperation with the Business Roundtable, has funded the Credential Transparency Initiative, with the aim of bringing greater transparency to the credential market. Through an online application called Credential Engine, the effort pulls together detailed information about the credential offerings of educational institutions across the country, including cost to acquire, breadth of recognition, and comparisons to offerings at other institutions.

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Employers, in turn, are able to signal through the registry which credentials they are seeking from future job applicants. Over time, the goal is to produce rich data that allow potential students to assess the labor market value of the credentials offered by different educational institutions.

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Similar transparency is needed in the hiring process. Hiring today has moved almost entirely from traditional newspaper ads to online ads, but there is no agreed technical standard for online hiring. Most postings are not presented in a consistent, machine-readable format that allows for easy sharing or developing targeted applications, and many leave out relevant information, such as wages and skills or credentials requirements. Most job ads are available primarily through third-party websites such as Indeed, LinkedIn, and Monster, which makes it difficult to share the announcements broadly or to aggregate the labor market signals they contain.

Jobs and hiring information is of such broad value to society—much like weather data—that it should be gathered and shared so the broadest possible use can be made by employers, educational institutions, application developers, and others. Students also need more active counseling to help them make sensible choices about the relationship between their education and future employment prospects. Almost everyone needs guidance and mentoring to succeed in the labor market; one of the huge advantages that young people from better-off families enjoy is that their parents often have connections to networks of individuals who can open employment doors.

For example, the online portal Journeys—a new application being developed by San Diego-based EDmin—will allow both high school and college students, as well as mid-career workers in transition, to chart various educational paths to achieve their career goals. More active involvement by employers in educational settings, either directly or through existing structures like state and local workforce boards, and expanded work-based training opportunities would also help transform career advice for students. Workforce skills are a major competitive issue for the United States.

Many of the most productive industries in advanced manufacturing, internet services, and other technology-intensive sectors are highly mobile and capable of being located in many different places in the world.

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Access to a well-educated, high-quality workforce is critical to these companies. And many countries are simply doing better than the United States in training their workers for these jobs. In Canada and South Korea, for example, more than 60 percent of young people are already graduating from postsecondary programs.


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The United States, which was the leader in educating its people for much of the twentieth century, now has a lot of catching up to do. A change in thinking is needed, from seeing education and work as distinct and separate activities to considering them as closely linked. For younger students, that means finding new ways—through work-study programs, early job-oriented counseling, internships, or career-related coursework—to allow them to link what they are learning in school to opportunities in the labor market. For older workers, it means building support for lifelong education to allow them to keep up with the changes that technology will bring.

In the face of rapid technological change, that notion is increasingly obsolete. Most mid-career employees have already seen their working lives transformed by the introduction of computers and information technology; many administrative jobs, including mail sorter and file clerk, have shrunk rapidly. The promised developments in artificial intelligence are likely to intensify the pace of change, requiring Americans to acquire the knowledge to work with and alongside thinking machines.

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