Published on 2014/02/26
Helping Middle-Skilled Workers Find a Job (Part 2)
Middle-skilled workers should keep abreast of the latest technological changes in order to stay current in the job market and avoid costly knowledge gaps
This is the conclusion of Sharon Burton’s two-part series on helping middle-skilled workers find a new start in the knowledge economy. In the first part, Burton discussed the changing nature of the American economy, and how the movement toward a technology-driven workforce means individuals need to upgrade their skills to find work and to stay current in their jobs. She then outlined some of the characteristics of a middle-skilled worker. In this article, she sheds light on some of the pathways these workers can take to finding work in the new economy.

Preparation and Pathways to Education for Middle-Skilled Jobs

Education access is important whether it is through federal training programs, state training programs or higher learning institutions — traditional or non-traditional. As stated in Massachusetts’ Forgotten Middle-Skill Jobs Report, “educational access must reflect the demands of a 21st-century economy and the realities of the 21st-century workforce” (2010, p. 5).

Educational training should directly focus on job readiness. While states should focus on job and skills training programs, job seekers should have a personal development plan to prepare themselves with new skills, too. Community colleges are avenues for middle-skilled workers to gain work training. Other arenas for middle-skill workers to be educated are apprenticeships, four-year higher education institutions, formal on- or off-site job training, industry training programs and vocational certification programs (Holzer & Lermans, 2009). In addition, workers should pursue non-traditional means of increasing their knowledge, skills, abilities and competencies. Non-traditional means of education includes blogs, YouTube videos, social media technology and wikis.

Job-readiness chart
A generic model to advance knowledge, skills, abilities and competencies for middle-skilled workers. Circles represent separate components. The components are connected by plus signs representing a needed connection. A combination of the needed components results in an enhanced worker.

Desirable Work Habits

Desirable work habits refer to characteristics that help employees gain employment and remain employed. Another term for desirable work habits is “work ethic.” Schwartz (1995) wrote that “Young people need certain kinds of skills called ‘job readiness skills’ in order to get and keep a job” (p.3).

Continuous Education and Middle-Skilled Workers

Cooper disclosed an ecological framework wherein literacy is labeled as motion and pursuit, and in which individuals are recurrently engaged with diverse socially-established systems (1986). Technology is a significant system of this ecology (DeVoss, McKee, & Selfe, 2009). Within technology sits digital literacy. Through Cooper’s framework leading to technology, then digital literacy, we find continuous education. Middle-skilled workers should become students of continuous learning to keep abreast of the latest technology tools, sites and terminology.

Middle-skilled workers may or may not work in a technologically challenging environment. Two schools of thought should be considered. The first is that middle-skilled workers working within a technological environment should focus on changes and updates weekly. The second is that middle-skilled workers not working in the technology arena may want to review the latest changes on a monthly basis. These two given timeframes to review technology are not researched; they are hypotheses that need further research and testing. The overarching notion here is the need for a consistent timeframe to ensure middle-skilled workers keep abreast of technology and limit their knowledge gaps that could hurt continued employment.

Conclusion

Kazanas, in a study on effective work competencies for vocational education, concluded the research with the message that a connection void exists between educational institutions and work organizations regarding skills institutions are teaching learners and the skills employers are seeking (1975). This researcher’s document works to bring a current focus on middle-skilled workers and the knowledge, skills, abilities and competencies needed to needed to navigate the 21st-century’s job market. Technology reigns in both traditional and non-traditional education which beckons to middle-skilled workers to harness a renewed resolve to adapt and flourish.

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References

A. R. R. (2006). U.S. tech industry job growth doubles in first half of 2006. Technology Central New York Business Journal, 20(39), 28.

Beach, D. P. (1980). Preliminary Development of an Effective Work Competencies Guidance/Instruction System. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED183932

Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014). Economic news release. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t08.htm Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013). The employment situation – December 2013. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf

Brown-Jackson, K. L. (2013). Targeted professional development + collaboration. Proceedings of the 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference, Spain, 1629.

Burton, S. L., Bessette, D,. Brown-Jackson, K., & Grimm, F. (2013). Transforming the mental paradigm on digital literacy through understanding andragogy and maximizing continuous education. Paper presented at the ICERI2013 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation.

Cooper, M. (1986). The ecology of writing. College English, 48 (4), 364-375.

DeVoss, D. N., McKee, H. A., & Selfe, R. (Eds.). (2009). Technological ecologies and sustainability. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State University Press. Retrieved from http:// ccdigitalpress.org/ebooks-and-projects/tes No author listed (2014). Education careers review: Top ten reviews. ITT Tech – Official Site. Retrieved from http://education-careers-review.toptenreviews.com/

Hobijn, B. (2003). Taking the pulse of the tech sector: A coincident index of high-tech activity. Current Issues In Economics & Finance, 9(10), 1.

Holzer, H. J. and Lerman, R. I. (2009). The Future of Middle-Skills Jobs. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution. www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/rc/papers/2009/02_middle_skill_jobs_holzer/02_middle_skill_jobs_holzer.pdf

Kazanas, H. C., & ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, C. H. (1978). Affective Work Competencies for Vocational Education. Information Series No. 138. McGuire, J. (2014). Demand rising for middle-skilled jobs. Grand Rapids Business Journal, 32(2), 3. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED166420

Mulbrandon, C., & Robison, H. (2013). America’s incredible shrinking information sector. Harvard Business Review, 91(11), 38-39.

National Skills Coalition. (2010). Massachusetts’ forgotten middle-skilled job report: Meeting the demands of a 21st century ecomomy. Retrieved from http://www.maworks.org/publications/middleskills.report.pdf

Schwartz, W., & ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education, N. Y. (1995). How to prepare your children for work. For Parents/about Parents.

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Readers Comments

Belinda Chang 2014/02/26 at 1:48 pm

I think a certain level of tech literacy is now expected in all jobs. Continuing education units should take that into account when designing their programs. For example, there’s widespread acknowledgment that communication, particularly written, is valuable across a variety of careers. As a result, most postsecondary programs have a mandatory communications requirement. I think we should start seeing the same for technology.

    Sharon 2014/03/03 at 11:52 am

    Thank-you for your feedback. Believe it or not, a few jobs require no tech literacy. However, this may only last 5 or so more years.

RF 2014/02/27 at 10:03 am

It’s easy for businesses to say they want more skilled employees, but many fail to see their role in facilitating that. Employers need to make it easier for their employees to enroll in continuing education, by offering flexible work scheduling and perhaps even financial incentives to pursue additional education.

Any strategies or programs adopted should specifically target middle-skilled and even low-skilled workers. For example, I know of some companies that match their employees’ contributions to education, in the same way they match their 401(k)s. However, this could exclude workers in lower-wage jobs — who tend to be middle- or low-skilled — who might not have the finances up front to pay for education and, thus, wouldn’t benefit from this type of program. When designing supports to encourage employees to upgrade their skills, employers should take unique needs and circumstances into consideration.

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