Skip to main content

Two-Year Educational Institutions Offer Pathways to Good Jobs, Says Harvard Report

A new report from Harvard’s Pathways to Prosperity Project contends that our nation’s strategy for secondary education places too much emphasis on a single career pathway—graduating from a four-year college—while losing sight of the myriad well-paying, skilled careers that require something other than a four-year degree. “The ‘college for all’ rhetoric that has been so much a part of the current education reform movement needs to be significantly broadened to become a ‘post-high-school credential for all’,” the report says.

While 70 percent of high school graduates go on to college, only 56 percent of those who enroll attain a bachelor’s degree after six years, the report says. Even more disturbing is the large number of high school dropouts. President Obama highlighted the concern about the dropout rate in a 2009 speech:
Three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the average high school graduate rate for OECD nations is 80 percent. In the United States, however, the average is 70 percent. Some 1.3 million students in U.S. public schools drop out each year. Why are so many students leaving school? The Pathways to Prosperity Project cites a key factor.
Too many can’t see a clear, transparent connection between their program of study and tangible opportunities in the labor market.
In the same 2009 speech, President Obama emphasized the need for post-high school education, while making it clear that a four-year college isn’t the only way to go.
I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. …Dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country.
The Pathways to Prosperity Project believes that the solution to improving America’s education system lies in developing a broader vision that incorporates multiple potential career pathways—including those requiring training at two-year educational institutions or vocational schools—and an expanded role for employers in support these new pathways.

Some argue that turning away from the goal of college for all would mean that the United States is giving up its quest to regain a leadership position in educational achievement. However, that may depend on how one defines educational achievement. With millions of Americans out of work, and those with high school diplomas or less finding fewer jobs open to them than in the past, perhaps the dual goals of making individuals more employable and meeting the real needs of today’s marketplace should take priority.

Pursuing something other than a four-year degree after high school doesn’t mean settling for less. For example, the Pathways to Prosperity Project found that graduates of the best two-year schools often earn more than some of their counterparts who have four-year degrees.

Nor can college graduates meet all the needs of employers. In the nuclear industry, for example, public awareness of nuclear industry jobs is limited to engineering. However, the industry also needs people to fill skilled craft positions such as welders, technicians, operators and security professions, as well as degreed engineers.

The nuclear industry expects to replace as many as 38 percent of all workers by 2014 as a result of retirements and other attrition. Existing nuclear power plants and new plants under development will require a skilled work force. President Obama’s call for greater use of clean energy sources during his Jan. 25 State of the Union Address will help support the growth of jobs throughout the energy sector.
Tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all, and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.
The nuclear industry is so concerned about the availability of technicians and skilled craft workers that it has developed a program to partner selected two-year educational institutions with companies in the nuclear industry to prepare young people for jobs as maintenance technicians, chemistry technicians, radiation protection technicians and non-licensed operators.

Part of the project involved developing a nationally recognized uniform curriculum guide that specifies the learning objectives required in each of these fields. Industry partners work with two-year educational institutions to choose one or more specialties, rather than trying to teach all of them. Graduates will be ready to enter nuclear industry jobs with little need for additional training, other than site-specific matters. The industry is working to align the number of graduates these programs turn out and the jobs available to them when they complete their training.

The nuclear power plant uniform curriculum program is part of a broader electric power industry effort to develop the work force of the future, coordinated through the Center for Energy Workforce Development. In addition, the Get Into Energy website provides information for those interested in careers in the energy industry.


Anonymous said…
Interesting. Sounds like back to the future. In may state there were two junior colleges that offered nuclear power technology programs going back to the late 1970s. Those got canceled by the late 1980s. The reason? lack of enrollment, lack of faculty, lack of support from the institutions. So maybe now we are reaping that bitter harvest? The lesson to be learned is, once you throw something away, it's pretty hard to get it back. If we throw away the people and technology associated with nuclear energy, we very well may end up cutting our own throats.

Popular posts from this blog

Sneak Peek

There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
It brings us together. And it makes us better.
And most importantly, it has the power to do all this in our lifetime while barely leaving a trace.
Some people might say it's kind of unbelievable.
They wonder, what is this new power that does all these extraordinary things?

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…

Seeing the Light on Nuclear Energy

If you think that there is plenty of electricity, that the air is clean enough and that nuclear power is a just one among many options for meeting human needs, then you are probably over-focused on the United States or Western Europe. Even then, you’d be wrong.

That’s the idea at the heart of a new book, “Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century,” by Scott L. Montgomery, a geoscientist and energy expert, and Thomas Graham Jr., a retired ambassador and arms control expert.

Billions of people live in energy poverty, they write, and even those who don’t, those who live in places where there is always an electric outlet or a light switch handy, we need to unmake the last 200 years of energy history, and move to non-carbon sources. Energy is integral to our lives but the authors cite a World Health Organization estimate that more than 6.5 million people die each year from air pollution.  In addition, they say, the global climate is heading for ruinous instability. E…