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20 Mar. 2014 | Comments (0)
In his State of the Union speech last night President Obama called for an “across-the-board reform of America’s training programs” and said, “We know how to do it.”
We agree with him: Regional and industry-specific programs already in place around the country provide successful models. In our December 2012 HBR article “Who Can Fix the Middle-Skills Gap?”we summarized the key ingredients that research on these programs has shown to be essential to their success:
Multiple employers in the region or industry sector cooperate with one another and with educational and labor institutions to design and fund initiatives to train and hire graduates.
Classroom education is integrated with opportunities to apply new concepts and skills in actual or simulated work settings — an approach proven to be the way adults learn best.
Training focuses on offering workers career pathways, not just skills for the initial jobs.
These programs take a variety of forms. Some like the highly successful like the Center for Energy Workforce Development are joint union-management initiatives. Some like the NCBioImpact consortium in North Carolina (formerly BioWorks) rely heavily on community colleges. And others like MIT’s Leaders for Global Operations are university-industry joint ventures.
Regardless of their specific form or workforce targets, the best thing the federal government can do to help expand such programs to meet the need for skilled workers is to make the funding it provides contingent on demonstrating that these three features are in place.
This blog first appeared on Harvard Business Review on 1/29/2014.
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