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Beyond College For All

Beyond College For All: Career Paths for the Forgotten Half

James E. Rosenbaum
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    Beyond College For All
    Book Description:

    In a society where everyone is supposed to go to college, the problems facing high school graduates who do not continue their education are often forgotten. Many cannot find jobs, and those who do are often stuck in low-wage, dead-end positions. Meanwhile employers complain that high school graduates lack the necessary skills for today's workplace. Beyond College for All focuses on this crisis in the American labor market. Around the world, author James E. Rosenbaum finds, employers view high school graduates as valuable workers. Why not here? Rosenbaum reports on new studies of the interaction between employers and high schools in the United States. He concludes that each fails to communicate its needs to the other, leading to a predictable array of problems for young people in the years after graduation. High schools caught up in the college-for-all myth, provide little job advice or preparation, leading students to make unrealistic plans and hampering both students who do not go to college and those who start college but do not finish. Employers say they care about academic skills, but then do not consider grades when deciding whom to hire. Faced with few incentives to achieve, many students lapse into precisely the kinds of habits employers deplore, doing as little as possible in high school and developing poor attitudes. Rosenbaum contrasts the situation in the United States with that of two other industrialized nations-Japan and Germany-which have formal systems for aiding young people who are looking for employment. Virtually all Japanese high school graduates obtain work, and in Germany, eighteen-year-olds routinely hold responsible jobs. While the American system lacks such formal linkages, Rosenbaum uncovers an encouraging hidden system that helps many high school graduates find work. He shows that some American teachers, particularly vocational teachers, create informal networks with employers to guide students into the labor market. Enterprising employers have figures out how to use these networks to meet their labor needs, while students themselves can take steps to increase their ability to land desirable jobs. Beyond College for All suggests new policies based on such practices. Rosenbaum presents a compelling case that the problems faced by American high school graduates and employers can be solved if young people, employers, and high schools build upon existing informal networks to create formal paths for students to enter the world of work.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-476-7
    Subjects: Education, Business, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. About the Author
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Chapter 1 Pathways to Adulthood: Reversing the Downward Spiral of the Youth Labor Market
    (pp. 1-23)

    A crisis is emerging in the American labor market. Young people who do not get college degrees have been called the ″forgotten half″ because society offers them no way to enter adult roles (Howe 1988). They either experience enormous difficulty getting jobs or take dead-end jobs that offer low status, little training, and pay too low to support a family (Osterman 1980; Althauser and Kalleberg 1981; NAS 1984). Among new high school graduates, 26 percent of whites and 56 percent of blacks still had no job four months after graduating from high school (NCES 1993, 82). Moreover, another study found...

  6. Chapter 2 Market and Network Theories of the High School–to–Work Transition
    (pp. 24-54)

    The transition from high school to work has attracted concern because of youths′ great difficulties in making this transition.¹ Many high school graduates spend their first years after school unemployed or job hopping, with consequent loss of training and productivity. Work-bound youths also have great problems in school that may be related to their anticipated problems entering work.

    The problem is hard to conceptualize because it involves many complexities. Is the problem due to shortcomings in one or more of the parties (youths, schools, or employers)? Is it due to problems of information flow between them? Or is it due...

  7. Chapter 3 College for All: Do Students Understand What College Demands?
    (pp. 55-87)

    In beginning a study of the high school–to–work transition, we must first establish whether high school is still an important institution for affecting work entry. For much of this century, most people entered the labor market directly after high school, but there has been an astounding growth in college enrollment in recent decades. If nearly all students are planning to attend college, then high school may no longer be an important influence on work entry.

    Community colleges have enormously increased college access in just one generation. While four-year-college enrollment roughly doubled between 1960 and 1990, public community college...

  8. Chapter 4 Gatekeeping in an Era of More Open Gates: High School Counselors′ Views of Their Influence on Students′ College Plans
    (pp. 88-107)

    Sociological research has provided a clear picture of the ways in which counselors channel students′ educational destinies.¹ Focusing on the ways in which counselors influence which students attend college (Cicourel and Kitsuse 1963; Schafer and Olexa 1971; Rosenbaum 1976), studies have given sociology the model of counselors as active ″social selectors″ for colleges, a role in which they screen out those students who they feel are poorly prepared, often exhibiting biases against low socioeconomic status, minorities, and (sometimes) women (Heyns 1974; Erickson 1975). However, much of this research is based on fieldwork from the 1960s and early 1970s.

    Three major...

  9. Chapter 5 Do Employers Need More Educated Youth?
    (pp. 108-131)

    One of the great policy questions of the 1990s is how to increase youths′ skills to meet the needs of today′s workplaces.¹ National blue-ribbon panels write about the academic skill needs of the workplace while complaining of youths′ poor academic skills (CED 1985; NAS 1984; NCEE 1990). Business leaders give well-publicized speeches in which they place much of the blame for inadequate skills at the school doorstep. Yet critics have been skeptical about whether students really need academic skills for the jobs they obtain (Ray and Mickelson 1993).

    Economists and sociologists offer conflicting views of employers′ needs. Neoclassical economists assume...

  10. Chapter 6 Hiring in a Hobbesian World: Social Infrastructure and Employers′ Use of Information
    (pp. 132-152)

    Having shown that employers actually do need academic skills, we are still left with the puzzle of why they ignore school information in their hiring decisions.1 Indeed, we know very little about how employers view various information sources and why they use some sources of information and not others.

    According to signaling theory, the labor market problems may arise because employers do not have good information about job applicants′ human capital (Spence 1974). This theory suggests that employers seek informational shortcuts, or signals, that indicate academic skill levels and work habits. For youth newly out of high school, these signals...

  11. Chapter 7 Ships Passing in the Night: The Sociological Foundations of Economic Transactions
    (pp. 153-169)

    Functionalist theories assume that various parts of society interact to serve their mutual needs and the needs of society.¹ For instance, sociological functionalism assumes that schools socialize and select youth for employers, and consequently that employers will come to them for hiring youth. Even some critics who reject the conservative premises of functionalism concur that schools serve employers′ needs, and that employers use schools′ evaluations in their hiring decisions (Bowles and Gintis 1976). Some economists make similar assumptions. They assume that any good transaction that could happen will happen, that markets are efficient, and that therefore the best matches between...

  12. Chapter 8 Are Noncognitive Behaviors in School Related to Later Life Outcomes?
    (pp. 170-192)

    As we have seen in the previous chapters, employers place a high priority on noncognitive behaviors—such as work habits (NCEQW 1994)—that they have great difficulty inferring from available information (Bishop 1993).¹ However, employers doubt that students′ behaviors in school are relevant to the work setting (chapter 6). Many employers dismiss school grades as merely indicating that a student has learned academic trivia (like historical dates), not the knowledge or work habits needed in the work world. Employers also mistrust the subjectivity of grades (although they often base workers′ pay on supervisors′ opinions). Employers say that workers′ attendance, discipline,...

  13. Chapter 9 Pathways into Work: Short- and Long-Term Effects of Personal and Institutional Ties
    (pp. 193-216)

    The central focus of this book has been to understand why students face great difficulties in gaining recognition of their value in the labor market.¹ New high school graduates have difficulty getting jobs that offer better pay or advancement, and their jobs and pay tend to be unrelated to their school achievements (Bills 1992; Crain 1984; Parcel 1987; Grubb 1992; Jencks et al. 1979, 117; Stern et al. 1995). These outcomes are not well explained by economic or sociological theories. For instance, human capital theory predicts that new high school graduates with higher achievement will get better jobs and pay,...

  14. Chapter 10 Hidden Links: Teachers′ Social Construction of Employer Linkages
    (pp. 217-240)

    Chapter 9 reported that high schools help students get jobs, and that this assistance leads to better long-term earnings outcomes. But the data behind this finding do not tell us how this happens.¹ Theory sometimes explains processes, but not in this case. Functionalist theories assume that schools and labor markets are mutually responsive by some automatic process, but these theories are vague about the specific mechanisms that make them responsive.

    In contrast, network theory contends that market responsiveness often depends on social relationships. Unlike German and Japanese schools, however, most American high schools have no formal social relationships with employers...

  15. Chapter 11 Theoretical Implications: Using Institutional Linkages to Signal and Enhance Youths′ Capabilities
    (pp. 241-264)

    All societies initiate young people into adulthood (Parsons 1959). They provide ways for youths to attain adult status and recognition of their productive value, and they give employers ways to know which individuals are ready to be productive. In simpler societies, youths are awarded adult status through initiation ceremonies that signal to all members of the society that they can meet tests of their survival skills and self-sufficiency.

    In modern societies, such signals usually come through schools. Although policymakers recognize the need for schools to provide students with training in the competencies demanded to be productive in society, they rarely...

  16. Chapter 12 Policy Implications: Career Paths for the Forgotten Half
    (pp. 265-282)

    Despite enormous changes in employment circumstances and college opportunities over the past several decades, young people continue to have work-entry problems. Although a strong labor market reduces unemployment, a strong labor market does not last forever, solve employers′ skill shortages, or give unskilled youths good jobs, particularly if they lack the soft skills that employers do not try to provide through training.

    We explored the theoretical implications of our findings in chapter 11, and here we examine their policy implications. This chapter has four goals: to show that policy has viewed work-entry problems too narrowly; to show that current practices...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 283-290)
  18. References
    (pp. 291-314)
  19. Index
    (pp. 315-323)