The US Department of Labor announced last week that it was making available $100 million in “Trade and Economic Transition National Dislocated Worker Grants,” which will fund training and career services programs for workers affected by “major economic dislocations.” These grants will be disbursed to states, outlying areas, local workforce development boards, and other entities, by the department’s Employment and Training Administration, and are meant to address a variety of workforce challenges, including:
- The economic and workforce impacts associated with job loss or employer/industrial reorganization due to trade or automation;
- The loss, significant decline, or major structural change/reorganization of a primary or legacy industry, such as a manufacturing downturn due to technological advances, including impacts on the agricultural industry due to trade or other economic trends;
- Other economic transition or stagnation that may disproportionately impact mature workers, putting them at risk for extended unemployment, lower wages, and underemployment.
Applications for grants are due by September 7, and the administration plans to begin awarding funds by September 30. It will continue to fund qualifying applications in the order they are received until all of the allocated funds are spent.
This is the first major initiative from the Trump administration focused on protecting the workforce from automation-related displacement. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin took criticism last year when he downplayed the potential impact of automation on job loss, arguing that technological displacement would not be an issue for another 50 years or more.
In recent years, bachelor’s degrees have gone from giving young professionals a leg up in the job market to being a must-have credential for a wide range of careers, with college graduates taking the vast majority of new jobs created in the US since the end of the Great Recession nearly a decade ago. More recently, however, employers have begun to question whether these degrees are always necessary and dropping degree requirements for some roles.
A tight labor market and talent shortages in high-demand fields are driving this trend further. Last week, the Wall Street Journal highlighted an analysis of 15 million job ads by Burning Glass Technologies, which found that the share of job postings requiring a college degree had fallen from 32 percent to 30 percent between 2017 and the first half of 2018, down from 34 percent in 2012. Work experience requirements are also declining, with only 23 percent of entry-level jobs asking applicants for three years of experience or more, compared to 29 percent in 2012. That means there are an additional 1.2 million jobs accessible to candidates with little or no experience today than a few years ago.
With growing numbers of unfilled jobs, more companies are looking for ways to broaden their talent pool and speed up the rate at which they can fill a role. “Downskilling,” or requiring less work experience and education, is a strategy many companies have opted for to achieve this. One field in which many employers have “downskilled” to broaden their applicant pool is cybersecurity.
Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck, the pioneer of mindset theory, has long argued that people’s belief in inherent, unchangeable abilities and traits holds them back from personal growth and professional development. If you don’t believe you can become good at something unless you have a natural aptitude for it, her research finds, you’re unlikely to try it, much less succeed at it. In her influential book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, first published in 2006, Dweck calls this belief the “fixed mindset,” in contrast to a “growth mindset,” which believes that abilities can be developed over time through diligent work.
Recently, Dweck teamed up with her Stanford colleague Greg Walton and Yale University psychologist Paul O’Keefe on a paper that applies the same theoretical framework to passions and interests—things we are often told to find and follow, but which Dweck and her colleagues argue are developed, not discovered. In fact, Dweck and her co-authors told the Atlantic’s Olga Khazan in an article published earlier this month, the suggestion often heard by young people to find what they love to do and then do it for a living may actually be bad advice, as it discourages them from pursuing careers that don’t elicit love at first sight. In other words, it promotes the fixed mindset:
“If passions are things found fully formed, and your job is to look around the world for your passion—it’s a crazy thought,” Walton told me. “It doesn’t reflect the way I or my students experience school, where you go to a class and have a lecture or a conversation, and you think, That’s interesting. It’s through a process of investment and development that you develop an abiding passion in a field.”
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Even with talent in short supply, many US employers are seeking applicants for entry-level professional roles with several years of relevant work experience, disqualifying most fresh graduates, SHRM’s Roy Maurer reports:
A recent analysis of over 95,000 job postings by job-matching software firm TalentWorks revealed how difficult it can be for newly minted grads to find an entry-level job within their experience level. The research found that 61 percent of all full-time jobs seeking entry-level employees required at least three years or more of experience. Similarly, when labor market analytics company Burning Glass Technologies analyzed 25 million entry-level job postings from 2010 to 2016, it found an increase in the number of soft and hard skills being demanded. …
“We saw some employers increase experience requirements during the recession and decrease them during the recovery,” [Alicia Modestino, associate professor at Northeastern University School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs] said. “But another set of employers increased their requirements during the recession and have maintained them since then.” The organizations with those “sticky requirements” tend to be hiring for high-skilled occupations, which also require higher education and advanced degrees, she said.
Executives at recruiting and staffing firms tell Maurer that these experience requirements are often excessive and cause employers to discount candidates who would be successful in these roles. Skills learned at one job are not always immediately transferable to a new job, even in the same field, so the benefit employers gain from being able to train experienced recruits more quickly may not make up for them missing out on qualified entry-level talent without that experience. Besides, if every entry-level role required experience, where would newly-minted graduates work?
More US employers are abandoning unpaid internships and paying to fill the roles these interns would perform, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, as historically low unemployment rates and a scarcity of available workers forces them to compete more extensively for even entry-level talent.
Internships in general continue to rise in popularity, the Journal notes, pointing to a survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) showing that around 60 percent of college graduates in 2017 said they had an internship at some point while in school—a marked rise from just under 50 percent who said so a decade earlier. However, just 43 percent of internships were unpaid in 2017, compared to about half in 2012, NACE found, while the average hourly wage for interns increased 3.7 percent to $18.73 in 2018.
Although unpaid internships are often criticized for exploiting young people’s labor and shutting poor students out of career opportunities, employers are not paying interns merely out of the goodness of their hearts. The Journal hears from several companies that have converted their unpaid programs into paid ones, or turned down opportunities to add unpaid internships, in order to remain competitive in the market for college student and graduate talent. Young people have more options in today’s job market than they did during the recovery from the Great Recession, so employers who want to cultivate future employees through their internship programs may need to offer interns something more than college credit and experience.
Effective onboarding often makes the difference between a successful hire and an early quit. To better understand the causes of attrition among recently hired employees, Microsoft created a survey that was given to new employees after their first week and again after 90 days to find out about their experiences and first impressions of the company. The tech giant’s workplace analytics team also compared anonymous calendar and email metadata with engagement survey data from around 3,000 new hires.
At the Harvard Business Review last week, Dawn Klinghoffer, Candice Young, and Xue Liu revealed what this investigation uncovered and how it shaped Microsoft’s decisions about how to improve new hires’ experience. One thing the survey revealed was that having a working computer and access to the building, email, and intranet on day one was important for new hires to be productive and engaged from the very beginning, making an important first impression that colored their overall experience. Their more complex analysis produced another insight: New employees who had a one-on-one meeting with their manager in week one were more successful than those who didn’t:
First, they tended to have a 12% larger internal network and double network centrality (the influence that people in an employee’s network have) within 90 days. This is important because employees who grow their internal network feel that they belong and may stay at the company longer. For example, employees who engage internally intend to stay at a rate that’s 8% higher on our intent-to-stay measure. They also report a stronger sense of belonging on their team while maintaining their authentic self.
The credit card company Discover has launched a new program that will pay for its 16,500 employees to earn bachelor’s degrees from three partner universities in certain business- and technology-focused majors at no cost to them. Fortune’s Lucinda Shen reported about the announcement on Tuesday:
Discover says the new program, dubbed The Discover College Commitment, will cover tuition, fees, books, and supplies for U.S.-based employees. The credit card issuer will offer a full-ride specifically for courses in cybersecurity, business, and computer sciences—burgeoning areas that the firm believes could strengthen its own business while also providing a long and stable career for its workers. …
Additionally, Discover plans to cover any income taxes that may be placed on employees due to the program. Due to IRS regulations, employers may only offer up $5,250 in tuition benefits to workers tax-free.
All employees are eligible, provided they work at least 30 hours a week for the company and have not been flagged for conduct issues or severe underperformance. Discover employees can complete their degrees at the University of Florida, Wilmington University, or Brandman University. The program is similar to one just launched by Walmart late last month, which also covers online or on-campus at University of Florida, Brandman University, or Bellevue University. Walmart’s benefit allows employees to study supply chain management or business at an out-of-pocket cost of $1 per day.