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Great Work by an Intern on Her Summer Vacation

I had an exceptional intern this summer, Tori Roloff, who worked with me on two projects: American Experiment’s multi-year initiative, “Great Jobs Without a Four-Year Degree”; and a related book I’m writing, tentatively titled Educational Roads Less Taken: How America’s Fixation on Four-Year Degrees Limits Both Careers and Economic Growth.  Tori is a sophomore at the University of Virginia and an alumnus of Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis.  Rather than give her simple assignments such as looking up this or counting that, I asked her to research several complex issues, six in all, and then write a short essay about each...

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Revolutionary new tool helps employers find skilled workers

Finding workers for hard-to-fill skilled jobs is one of the toughest challenges that Minnesota’s small- to medium-sized employers face. Fortunately, a revolutionary new on-line search tool—the RealTime Talent Exchange—now gives them the kind of reach and sophistication they can otherwise only dream of. For these employers, the Exchange is like having their own top-dollar, Fortune 500-style human resources department. And it’s remarkably affordable: $39 for regular job postings and $19 for internships. RealTime Talent, which operates the Exchange, is a public-private collaboration formed in 2015 out of work started by the business advisory group Itasca Project. RealTime Talent’s goal is to increase...

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Tapani Sisters of Wyoming Machine show the way on closing the skills gap

Up in Stacy, Minnesota, the Tapani sisters—Lori and Traci—are blazing a trail in workforce development. The two are the co-owners and co-presidents of Wyoming Machine. This spring, the Tapanis won the National Association of Workforce Boards’ (NAWB) prestigious business leadership award in Washington, D.C., for their work in developing the workforce and economy of Washington County and other Minnesota communities. They were in remarkable company. The other company so honored was national behemoth Lockheed Martin. The award honored the Tapanis for their “ardent commitment” to training and enhancing workforce skills in manufacturing. According to the Star Tribune, In nominating the sisters, Washington County workforce...

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Businesses seeking older skilled workers to fill gap

The urgent need for skilled workers is one of the greatest challenges that businesses in fields like manufacturing, construction and energy face. One new pool they are increasingly tapping is older workers—headed for retirement—in their own shops. These individuals’ talent and deep institutional knowledge may be the key to a company’s continued profitability. Today, 19 percent of manufacturing employers are seeking to attract older employees to some sort of phased retirement—up from 6 percent just four years ago, according to the Society for Human Resources Management. But how to do this, especially in fields with physical demands that might challenge older workers? The...

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“I Come to Mostly Praise Higher Education, Not Bury It”

As a young guy, I had planned on making my life in higher education – or the “academy” as I liked to say – not that things worked out back then.  Nearly four decades later I can’t deny I was disappointed and often angry when things didn’t mesh.  But what I can say is that I am exceedingly pleased my career has worked out the way it has, as the sense of satisfaction I’ve derived from conceiving and then leading Center of the American Experiment for a long time has been grander, I’m confident, than any fulfillment I could have...

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Kathy Kersten’s Better Bloggerville Welcome

Whenever I have an op-ed published in the Star Tribune I debate with myself whether I should read comments about the piece on the Strib’s blog afterwards.  Despite knowing, without a sliver of doubt, that some number of readers will suggest I’m a rotten human being in the employ of immorally rich capitalists and nasty plutocrats, I’m invariably curious enough to take a look, where the pattern routinely goes something like this: Blogger No. 1: “Pearlstein’s article is a piece of trash.” Blogger No. 2: “No, it’s not.  If there’s any trash around here, it’s all your dumb liberal ideas.” After which I’m...

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Postsecondary education for non-dummies

This appeared as the Star Tribune's Sunday cover editorial on July 16, 2017.  [Star Tribune photo by Anthony Souffle.] In this era of high technology manufacturing, four years and a bachelor's degree is hardly the only smart path to take. Only 22 percent of jobs in our state require a bachelor's or above. High school graduation should be a time of optimism about the future and congratulations all around. But I heard recently about a mother who was in mourning at her son’s graduation, struggling to restrain tears. She had implored him to enroll in a four-year college, but he had chosen a...

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Who Needs a Four-Year Degree?

Not everyone. In fact, not most people. The Center's new program, "Great Jobs Without a Four-Year Degree," highlights the fact that there are many rewarding careers that don't require a bachelor's degree, and don't entail a mountain of debt. Today, Kathy Kersten has the lead op-ed in the Sunday Star Tribune. It is titled "Postsecondary education for non-dummies." Here are some excerpts, please do read the whole thing: In recent decades, our society has developed a powerful cultural bias that a four-year college degree is optimal for everyone, and that any other path to a career is second-best, “for dummies.” But...

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Where Does the Idea Everyone Should Go to College Come From?

The astute Howard Root had a very good column in the Business section of the Star Tribune the other day (July 10) with the forceful headline, “We’re Not Doing Students Favors by Overselling College Degrees.”  The recently retired CEO of Vascular Solutions, a medical device company he started and ran for 20 years, one of Root’s most effective points was when he noted that his firm “consistently had unfilled job openings for non-degreed technicians in machine design at salaries well above $50,000.”  But when it came to their “entry-level marketing associate program,” Vascular Solutions “received at least 50 applications from...

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