Monday, June 14, 2010

Outdated Workforce Development Policies

If a region is complaining about brain drain, then you can be sure that the workforce development policy there is broken. From a geographic perspective, the dated perspectives are obvious. Local talent is being trained to work at local businesses. The best practices are over a century old and are designed to deal with an economy that no longer exists. Inside Higher Ed makes the same observations about US universities:

So what should be done? First, we need to recognize that this is not the first time colleges and their students have been out of step. In the early 19th century, as the industrial revolution gathered momentum, colleges in the main clung stubbornly to their classical curriculums, rooted in the ancient trivium and quadrivium, and to outmoded methods of instruction. College enrollments actually declined, and numerous institutions closed their doors. Bold colleges like Union, in Schenectady, New York — among the earliest adopters of modern language, science and engineering instruction — boomed in enrollment, topping Yale and Harvard combined.

Today, with college essential in obtaining most well-paying jobs, we will not see higher education enrollments drop. However, tardiness in acting will give impetus to the growth and expansion of alternative higher education — for-profit and nontraditional educational institutions that have been more successful in offering programs better geared to digital learners and their older counterparts.

Second, it is important to ask how much colleges and universities need to change. In 1828, facing industrialization and a Connecticut legislature that disapproved of Yale’s classical curriculum, the Yale faculty responded with a report which asked, in part, whether the college needed to change a lot or a little. This, Yale’s faculty said, was the wrong question. The question to be asked, they argued, was: What is the purpose of a college? This remains the right question today.

The Union College model is alive and well today, still dominating the higher education landscape. We are preparing students for a late 19th century world. Not coincidently, we cling to the same basic geographic concepts developed at that time (e.g. world regional geography). We seem willing to update certain practices but not others. Traditional ideas do not go quietly into that good night.

Talent retention is yesterday's strategy for yesterday's economy. Someone promoting the latest and greatest brain drain plug doesn't understand globalization. Fin de si├Ęcle thinking won't fix anything.

1 comment:

rootvg said...

"The Union College model is alive and well today, still dominating the higher education landscape. We are preparing students for a late 19th century world."

YOU are preparing students for a late 19th century world. We don't see it at Stanford or Berkeley. They don't see it at SMU or UT-Austin. They sure as hell don't see it at Maryland or Virginia.

It's just as I said. That part of the country needs massive, multi billion dollar investment...and the only way to get that investment is (basically) with the next thing to a military coup. You have to get rid of those oldsters who hold the levers of power. You have to do this!

You'll either do it or increasingly, you won't eat.