Jun 07, 2016 - 2:15pm

How Business Can Help Students Make Good Career Choices … And Avoid the Mafia

Former Director, Communications and Strategy

The skills gap impacts us all. From an underemployed friend or family member to a debt-laden millennial generation – it’s creating barriers to achieving life satisfaction and it’s holding back the U.S. economy. But how can we fix it? In today’s episode, we’ll hear about a new web-based resource designed to help narrow the skills gap. Guest Mark Schneider discusses how the tool, engineered with insight from the business community, will empower students to become informed consumers and make data-driven decisions about their career path based on tomorrow’s job market. Functioning as an ROI calculator, this tool could show results for both students and the business community. Bonus material: why joining the mafia is not the best career path. Click here to learn more.


Mark Schneider

Vice President and Institute Fellow, American Institutes for Research; President, College Measures







03:09 Trula Tener: It is frequently noted in the media these days that our nation is facing a skills gap crisis as our CEO, Tom Donohue has said, "We have people without jobs, jobs without people, and that's to the tune of five to six million jobs without people." Could you tell us a little bit more about the impact the skills gap is having on the economy?

05:56 Doctor Schneider: On one level, people are talking about non-cognitive, high-level skills, reading, presentation skills, teamwork. These kinds of words are very general, and there's a large agreement that these are the kinds of skills that people need to succeed in the job market. So you have to be presentable, you have to show up on time, you have to know how to read, write, and talk. Part of the problem with that level skills, of which there's a high agreement, is that we have no idea what they mean. You can go on, you could Google non-cognitive skills and you'll get 100 different answers of what they are. We hope that postsecondary education is instilling in students those kinds of skills, but we know that they're not, because employers complain that many of their students don't even have these basic skills.

06:52 DS: The other thing that we're trying to do is, on a much more tailored basis for states and for regions within states, to try to identify the more concrete skills that are in demand. What we're looking for is somewhere between these high-level read, write, talk skills, and read a sonogram skills. We're looking for the kinds of mid-level skills that would be in high demand, that would enable students to get jobs. So one of the things that we've had some success with, especially in the state of Texas, is to get the Texas Higher Ed Coordinating Board in its work on marketable skills to help students understand that for example, knowing how to work with an Excel spreadsheet is in fact a marketable skill. So students may pick the skill up and they don't even... And it may be like so routine for them, they never think about it. But the fact that matter is that Microsoft Office, Excel, Word, PowerPoint are really in high demand skills and most people don't even think about that as a marketable skill. So we're stuck like everybody else, we're trying to figure out how to give advice to students about what are the skills that you need, and it really is a very, very difficult problem.


08:21 TT: I hear that there's a new tool about to be released designed to address the skills gap. It probably touches on most of what you just said. Could you tell me about how that will work and who it's designed for?

08:34 DS: So the first version of this tool, we have contracts with four states to create these, and that's Colorado, and Tennessee, Texas, and Minnesota, and that's pretty much the order in which they'll be coming out. In Colorado, we will launch on June the 9th. And again with the help of the chamber, this will be a fairly high level rollout. It is designed to, again, help students identify the credentials of value that they are pursuing or that they can pursue in the postsecondary system in the state of Colorado. So part of the problem is that students: [A] enroll in programs that do not give them marketable skills, and [B] they borrow too much money to get their degrees, and a combination of not having high wages and high debt is a recipe for disaster. In this tool, what we're trying to help students understand is that there are degrees, programs of study that are imparting skills that get you into the job market, and that put you into the middle class. We're also trying to impart advice to these students about don't borrow $75,000 for a degree in art history where you'll make $25,000 dollars. So we are trying... Though that's the underlying concept behind this. We are also, as I noted earlier, we're trying to develop the mechanisms... Identify, sorry. To identify the skills that are most in demand.

Bonus material: How Schneider found a career path better than the mafia.

27:20 DS: I was the treasurer.

27:22 TT: Wow.

27:22 Speaker 3: That is a lot more prestigious.

27:23 DS: Yeah, but it was the junior mafia. It wasn't the real mafia. I was in training.

27:27 TT: Okay. Were the people in charge younger in the junior mafia?

27:31 DS: Yeah, I was like 15 years old. I had an apartment filled with swag, contraband.

27:37 TT: Do you still have any of the contraband?

27:39 DS: No, I sold it all. And then when I quit, they tried to kill me.

27:43 TT: Oh, my goodness.

27:44 DS: Well, that's why I said there's better career lines.

27:46 TT: Yeah. With a longer life expectancy.

27:49 DS: Way longer life expectancy. Everybody I knew that was in the mafia with me, they're all dead.

27:54 S3: Really?

27:54 DS: Yeah. They all went to jail, and they all died. It's not a long-lived profession.

28:00 TT: From getting murdered or...

28:00 S3: No.

28:01 TT: Unhealthy.

28:01 S3: Suicide.

28:02 DS: Yeah, with both. Unhealthy and...

28:04 TT: Yeah, not mentally healthy.

28:05 DS: Yeah. Go to jail for a couple of years. It doesn't help your longevity.

28:08 TT: No.

28:09 S3: It's true. Yeah. There are much better career pathways out there.

28:12 DS: Right.

28:13 S3: And our tool will help people stay out of the mafia.

28:16 TT: But it should definitely be an option in there, and you should say, "No, this is not a wise decision."

28:19 DS: No mafia.

28:20 TT: No mafia.

28:21 DS: Street crime doesn't pay off.


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About the Author

About the Author

Former Director, Communications and Strategy