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Betsy DeVos Watch: Schools as a Talent Pipeline for the Private Sector

November 19, 2020

Before Betsy DeVos is forced out of the federal government, she is not wasting what few weeks she has left sulking. 

The Secretary of Education spent time last week meeting with the Secretary of Labor, Business leaders and one student to discuss the need to “Rethink Work-Based Learning.”

“Before the pandemic, there were more than seven million unfilled jobs in the United States waiting for workers with the right skills and a personalized education. And more than 80 percent of HR professionals report they’ve had difficulty finding qualified people for open positions. More than 4 in 5 say this,” said Secretary DeVos. “Employers can’t find enough qualified people to hire because there are too many disconnects between education and the economy, just as there are often too many disconnects between a child and the school they’re assigned to by government.”

Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career Technical and Adult Education, Scott Stump, also stated, “it is our hope that attendees heard and are ready to respond to the call to action to expand employment opportunities for youth as America emerges from the pandemic.”

This is not a new issue or theme for Betsy DeVos. Last year, at the annual US Mayor’s Conference, DeVos had a similar message an was soliciting help from US Mayors to create a Talent Pipeline from schools to the business sector.

Seeing students as workforce talent is dangerous. First, this kind of thinking commodifies students to be used by the private sector. The other reason why the notion of students as workforce talent is dangerous, is because it minimizes and detracts from students being able to develop critical thinking skills that can provide them with the ability to make important decisions an choices about what they want to do with their future.

The same kind of thinking is very much part of the West Michigan ethos, with groups like Talent 2025 and Believe 2 Become, which also produced a report in 2017 and organize a conference on workforce development, where local CEOs were pushing the notion that education was all about talent development for the private sector. Here are what some of the West Michigan CEOs had to say in the report:

For those who value public education, we need to pay attention to the business class and how they want to influence both higher education and K-12 school systems. We also need to resist the business class and their desire to see students as nothing more than profit making talent, a message that Betsy DeVos has been pushing for the past 4 decades.

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