Sunday, January 28, 2007

Reading :: Technology-Based Solutions to Workforce Service Delivery

Technology-Based Solutions to Workforce Service Delivery
Project directed by Robert W. Glover, Christopher T. King, Francis Dummer Fisher and Lodis Rhodes

Later this month, I'll be talking at the LBJ School about collaboration practices and software that could be useful for policy research project reports (PRPs). These reports are directed by two or more faculty members and involve 10-17 graduate students. To get a better sense of the sorts of documents these teams are writing, I skimmed through two PRPs and read the third one more thoroughly. That's this one, which is on a subject that has really interested me lately: how to prepare workers for the so-called New Economy. Or, as the Introduction summarizes:
The New Economy, characterized by globalization, technological innovation, and rapid labor market change, has increased pressure on both employers and public institutions to educate and train workers more quickly and efficiently. These forces have also led to changes in training content. Workers must possess broad-based competencies, including the ability to communicate, to learn, and to work in teams, as well as technical skills, if they are to succeed in today's labor market. (p.1)
This is fairly standard New Economy stuff. But the report goes more deeply, examining "technology, the New Economy, and workforce development policy" and where the three intersect: "the point at which workers and employers access information and workforce services in order to compete successfully in labor markets" (p.1). And it is specifically focused on Texas policy for accomplishing this.

To address these issues, the report describes several angles: improving access to technology in rural areas, including through distance learning; well-designed courseware and computer-based instruction; online job finding and matching; one-stop career issues; training case managers; preparing students in secondary and postsecondary contexts; and leveraging corporate universities and military training techniques. What emerges is a dry but detailed and interesting examination of these angles in much more localized and concrete terms than are typically used in New Economy readings. The authors manage to concisely examine policy issues and pull these together into policy recommendations -- recommendations that appear at the bottom of each chapter, then are pulled together and repeated in the last chapter.

Recommendations are often tricky in policy documents. It's easy to generate recommendations that are, on the one hand, so general as to be unhelpful ("The Texas workforce system should make effective use of various partnerships and collaborations to implement innovations in information technology" (p.190)), and on the other hand, are too specific or expensive to gain broad support ("The federal and state governments should increase funding for technology resources and facilities for technology training of faculty and staff at postsecondary institutions" (p.187)). We see the same sorts of problems here, but the recommendations are nevertheless useful for getting the shape of a policy response to these issues.

In sum, I found this document helpful in terms of thinking through my own role as an educator and administrator in preparing students for New Economy work, and the specifically Texan focus may also come in useful for my research.

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