There is nothing that might make me giddier than the idea of fewer bureaucrats and fewer government agencies. Especially if you are talking about the Department of Education which has proven its complete ineffectiveness at bolstering our educational system which has clearly shown in declining results for decades in comparison with other developed nations. The DOE also has the unique distinction of making our educational system more dangerous through policies like restorative justice and the 2011 ‘Dear Colleague’ letter which has resulted in the stripping of due process rights from college age men.
The administration is set to unveil a proposal to combine the Department of Education with the Department of Labor. This move comes after an Executive Order in 2017 that directed the Office of Budget and Management to identify redundant programs. Working with agency leaders it appears some opportunities have been identified.
As a former Human Resources professional, the merging of the DOE and DOL makes perfect sense to me. Education should have two primary purposes. The first is to create good citizens who understand history and now how to participate responsibly in a representative republic. Yes, we clearly have work to do there. The second is to prepare them to participate fully in the economy by arming them with the interpersonal and technical skills to be successful in the job market. I can tell you from personal experience, this is a complete failure as well.
As a professional, I had to develop programs at every level of organizations to teach people how to do effective problem solving. Same goes for how to work within groups, how to communicate effectively in writing and verbally as well as time management. Many entry level employees did not have basic skills in these areas, even if they had completed a college degree. I also had to structure apprenticeship programs and technical training programs to bring in employees with no experience and train them how to do a job.
This is not surprising when study after study is showing kids aren’t learning much in college. The hours spent reading, learning and studying have all declined dramatically over the last several years. The state of our technical education programs is even more dismal. I have a local employer asking me to help set up an apprenticeship program to train people how to fill the jobs they need filled. Rockwell, a major technical supplier in manufacturing has now established their own program to train people how to use their systems and present them to employers as part of their overall marketing strategy. Employers and suppliers are taking on the burden of taking young adults from zero to sixty in terms of what should be basic career skills.
And if you’ve read the research from Dr. Jean Twenge, many of the interpersonal and communication skills are only going to get worse. If there is not a significant course correction, we are sending a generation into the workforce that lacks interpersonal skills, have missed or avoided some significant milestones to adulthood and whose trust in a range of institutions, to include employers is historically low.
If done correctly and with appropriate directives (I strongly suggest the big two I mentioned above), the combination of these two departments could be phenomenal. The DOL collects and analyzes a ton of information on the job market, the needs of employers, and the changing nature of employment in the U.S. With proper collaboration this could inform the DOE and they could be come a powerhouse of communicating with states, colleges and local school districts about about these findings and conduct research and best practice identification for institutions that develop and implement programs that meet the needs of students to be prepared for a range of career opportunities upon graduation.
In addition to streamlining administrative and legal functions, this could be a powerful combination to better serve our children as they navigate from school to work. In developing programs and identifying best practices that allow children to more seamlessly transfer from education to work without placing the burden for what are truly basic entry career level skills on employers, this combination could yield a very effective agency with fewer bureaucrats on payroll.
Additional proposals look to combine the administration of several safety net programs for low income families. If this is done with an eye to efficiency, this could actually make enrolling in and maintaining those programs easier for families and reduce the administrative cost of maintaining them. Give his performance so far, I have a pretty high degree of confidence in Mick Mulvaney to lead this process and create proposals. I have less confidence in Congress to do the right thing and reduce the size and increase the efficiency of the agencies they have created.