A valuable tool for finding jobs

June 27, 2000|By Arnold Packer

THE BALTIMORE region needs a good way to develop its work force if it is to prosper in the new century. Old-style academic transcripts and resumes are as outdated as the rusty towers of antiquated steel plants.

But Career Transcripts (CT), a system of registering New Age skills developed at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, offers a bridge between the old industrial economy and the new technological age.

Employers want to know how well their workers can function in teams and how they plan, communicate, solve systemic problems and use technology. They want to know if job applicants are responsible and sociable. These are the kinds of skills and traits recorded on the career transcript and maintained in a secure online database.

The idea already is working for experienced steel workers in Dundalk. Bethlehem Steel, which pared its work force from its 1950s peak by about 90 percent, began this month to offer United Steelworkers an opportunity to develop career transcripts. The steel workers can enroll in the Institute for Career Development. The ICD, a nonprofit organization established and funded by the union, and the company provide members with education for a number of purposes -- careers, recreation and retirement.

Imagine a hypothetical John Smith:

He takes a computer course at the Dundalk campus of the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), which is involved in the CT system. He and other students design an information system and present it to the class. John acquires skills with computers, solves problems with a group, makes presentations and learns responsibility. All are recorded in the CT.

After a year, John transfers from the production floor to the Internet-based procurement department at Bethlehem, adding more skills on his CT. After he gets a degree from CCBC, he retires from the steel business and joins a new dot-com. His employers send him to courses on new computer languages, and he takes some courses on his own off the Internet.

This register of lifelong learning does not stop after graduation. It serves as an immediately accessible record of the skills that John builds throughout his career.

CTs are appealing to other groups across the city.

At Northern High School, 22 students are receiving CTs from the SCANS 2000 Center at Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies. They took courses within the Baltimore Learning Community. The program, with its promise of relevance for academic subjects and future careers, has significantly reduced dropouts and increased grades in math and English, besides motivating students to attend college.

A few miles west, at the Catonsville campus of CCBC, CTs have been adopted by the Occupational Training Center to help women on welfare advance in meaningful work. More than 100 long-term welfare recipients in the center have career transcripts. "Workplace liaisons," hired by the college under a federal grant, are helping employees and their supervisors learn and document careers for jobs ranging from janitors to certified nurses assistants.

A career transcript can be a valuable tool for finding a new job and motivating good performance at school and work. It enables students and workers to build a record of continuous learning, documenting what they know and can do. John, the example from Dundalk, builds up a resume, one that employers can trust.

John's employers also benefit. Once hired, John is more likely to continue learning (if they reward his knowledge) and stay on the job. Employers gain a database to keep track of their workers to better match skills and tasks.

The Baltimore region also wins a talented, stable work force, that will attract new business. The benefits multiply exponentially as more workers and employers adopt career transcripts. The more widespread, the most powerful and credible career transcripts become. They can be used all through the system, in health, manufacturing, and retailing -- as well as in Information Technology -- to link willing workers with new jobs.

Arnold Packer chairs the SCANS 2000 Center at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies .

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