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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.
This project was supported by the U.S. Department of Education.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Preparing for the workplace : charting a course for federal postsecondary training policy / Janet S. Hansen, editor ; Committee on Postsecondary Education and Training for the Workplace ; Commission on the Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Career education—Government policy—United States. 2. Postsecondary education—United States. 3. Federal aid to higher education—United States. 4. Labor supply—Effect of education on. I. Hansen, Janet S. II. National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Postsecondary Education and Training for the Workplace. III. National Research Council (U.S.). Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. IV. Title : Federal postsecondary training policy.
Copyright 1994 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America
COMMITTEE ON POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION AND TRAINING FOR THE WORKPLACE
RICHARD NATHAN (Chair),
Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government and Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, State University of New York, Albany
World Bank, Washington, D.C.
The McKenzie Group, Washington, D.C.
ROBERT C. FORNEY,
E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (ret.), Unionville, Pennsylvania
RICHARD B. FREEMAN,
Department of Economics, Harvard University, and National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts
National Governors' Association, Washington, D.C.
W. NORTON GRUBB,
School of Education, University of California, Berkeley
JUDITH M. GUERON,
Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, New York
G. PHILLIPS HANNA,
U.S. Office of Management and Budget (ret.), Washington, D.C.
MARY ALLEN JOLLEY,
Office of Economic and Community Affairs, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
ROBERT I. LERMAN,
Department of Economics, American University, Washington, D.C.
Colorado Commission on Higher Education, Denver
Department of Economics, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts
LARRY L. ORR,
Abt Associates, Bethesda, Maryland
FRANKLIN D. RAINES,
Federal National Mortgage Association, Washington, D.C.
JOAN L. WILLS,
Institute for Educational Leadership, Washington, D.C.
JANET S. HANSEN, Study Director
LAUREL MCFARLAND, Research Associate
BARRY SUGARMAN, Research Associate
CINDY S. PRINCE, Project Assistant
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As of March 1991, 79 percent of U.S. men and women 25 years and older had not attended 4 or more years of college. How are these people prepared for work? This is a big question and a major concern in the country. The role of the federal government in the field of work force preparation is the subject of this report. At various times during the 2-1/2 years that our committee worked on this study, we talked about calling our report "The Other 79 Percent" as a way to dramatize the challenge of our inquiry.
Increasingly, opinion in the country has coalesced around the proposition that a high-skills, high-productivity work force is the key to the nation's ability to compete in an ever more interconnected global economy. Yet, as our report says right in the first sentence, "postsecondary training for the workplace is a troubled enterprise in the United States."
The National Research Council was asked by the U.S. Department of Education to establish our committee to address the question of what the federal government's role in postsecondary training ought to be. We had two first-order definitional questions to answer in our work: What do we mean by postsecondary training? What is the present federal role in this enterprise?
In answer to the first question, we defined our universe as including organized activities supplied by schools, employers, or other agencies and organizations that provide training, apprenticeship, and skills development for the workplace focused on individuals who have a high school diploma or who are older than the average high school student. This universe in
cludes much of the work of community and technical colleges, proprietary schools, area vocational and adult schools, community-based organizations, apprenticeship programs, employer-sponsored training programs, and military training programs. We identified four types of training that individuals need at the post-high-school level: qualifying training to prepare for initial entry to the work force, skills improvement training for people on the job, retraining when economic changes make jobs obsolete, and second-chance training for those with low levels of education and skills that hamper their employability.
It is worth noting that arguably the single most dramatic development in all of American education in the last 30 years has been the growth of community colleges. Enrollment has grown nearly sevenfold since the early 1960s: it is now close to 5 million people in 1,000 community colleges in which occupational programs are a major component.
Our second question about the federal role in postsecondary preparation for the workplace is much more important than at first blush might seem to be the case. In a word, the federal role is small. Expenditures through federal postsecondary training programs amount to about $20 billion annually, but this is only a small fraction of what state and local governments, employers, and individuals spent on training activities. Postsecondary activities are also highly fragmented within the federal establishment. The largest programs (excluding those for military personnel) are found in the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services, but several other cabinet departments are also involved.
Because the federal government shares responsibility for work force training with so many other actors, issues of federalism and governance were central to our analysis. State governments have the lead role among governments in postsecondary training. Local governments, private profit-making (proprietary) schools, nonprofit community-based groups, and private firms are also major actors. The biggest federal activity in support of postsecondary training comes not through direct aid to institutional providers, but through grants and loans to students. Many of these students attend proprietary schools, where new controversies have arisen about their practices.
As our deliberations proceeded, we constantly encountered—at every level of government—a lack of systematic thinking and action to provide individuals—and this is what counts—with ways to find and obtain the best preparation to be productive workers. Overcoming fragmentation and incoherence and improving the quality of postsecondary training are even bigger needs than making individual federal training programs work better, though it is obviously important to do the latter as well. Our final chapter discusses six functions we believe the federal government should undertake to help move the nation towards a coherent and high-quality postsecondary
training system that meets the needs of both workers and employers for all the training that individuals will need over the course of their working lives.
Much of our attention was devoted to the key role of states in providing postsecondary training and to identifying ways the national government could stimulate and facilitate strong action at the state level to integrate and strengthen programs for workplace preparation. In our view, the federal government should act as a catalyst and agent of change on a basis that draws on and reinforces the best practices of the leading states that have taken a systemic approach to work force development.
In the usual way in a preface, we pay tribute to the people who helped us do our job. Most important of all, Janet S. Hansen served ably, patiently, and energetically as the study director for our committee. She moved over (or up) from being a member of the group at the outset of our work to the position of study director in December 1991. We thank her for agreeing to do this. Janet was a tiger in our meetings, pressing us all the time to be rigorous and to tell her (best of all in writing) exactly what we meant. We tried very hard to meet her standards.
The U.S. Department of Education sponsored this project. Many officials of the department and other federal agencies assisted us and our staff throughout our endeavors, and we thank them. We are especially grateful to our project monitor, David Goodwin, and to Maureen McLaughlin of the Department of Education and to Barry White and Cynthia Brown of the Office of Management and Budget. They met numerous times with the committee and provided a valuable perspective on the questions facing federal policy makers responsible for designing and implementing postsecondary training programs. We also want to acknowledge the contributions of the late Fred Fischer of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, who was instrumental in identifying the need for this study.
At the National Research Council, Alexandra K. Wigdor, director of the Division of Education, Labor, and Human Performance, provided critical guidance on the study process. Daniel Levine served ably in helping to organize our committee. Research associate Laurel McFarland (on leave from the Brookings Institution) assisted in getting the study launched and in framing initial avenues for the committee to investigate; she also drafted several helpful background papers. Upon her return to Brookings, Barry Sugarman took up responsibility for many of the fact-finding and data-gathering tasks so important to a committee like ours. At a crucial period late in the study, Gerald Hauser, serving as an intern, picked up on the substance of the study amazingly quickly and was enormously helpful in filling in holes in the draft report. Throughout the study, Cindy Prince, our project assistant, attended to the myriad administrative needs of the study and to the care and feeding of the staff and committee members with skill
and good humor. She and Elaine McGarraugh also had the important responsibility of ensuring the accuracy of the manuscript as it wound its way through the editorial process. Jeffrey Porro, editor, helped improve the presentation of the committee's ideas. Eugenia Grohman supervised the editing of the manuscript and shepherded it through publication. We thank them all.
The committee also appreciates the assistance we received from a group of scholars literally from around the world who prepared background papers to inform our deliberations. We are grateful for the ideas offered by Larry Bailis, Sara Connolly, Robert Gregory, Arthur Hauptman, Julia Lane, Sarah Liebschutz, Lisa Lynch, Thomas Rauberger, James Rosenbaum, David Stern, and Margaret Vickers. In particular, we note the contribution made to our discussions by Richard Elmore, whose paper on improving the quality of postsecondary training became the core of Chapter 6.
As the chair, I get a final word on the committee itself, the way it congealed, and how we worked together to find our way in a field that is broad-gauged and in many ways more institutional and policy-laden than the usual territory of a National Research Council committee. As is often the case, there were moments of excitement (to put it politely) as we compared notes and rubbed ideas together, first to learn, then to agree on findings, and finally to work out how we view the federal role in postsecondary training for the workplace. One member of the group said at the final meeting that he was happy to have us conclude our deliberations and hoped never again to see us all at the same time. He was kidding, of course, but the point is that any such group has to work hard at coming together. I thank my colleagues for their help and support in doing this. I am proud of the work we did and hope they are, too.
Richard P. Nathan, Chair
Committee on Postsecondary
Education and Training