The Issue of Workforce Skills Gap

free essayPeople often perceive education as the issue of their personal development or a tool for further occupation that will bring them money and decent social status. However, it is only one perspective on the subject. It is worth looking at it through the sociological imagination that allows seeing “the connection between individual experience and larger forces of history” (Conley, 4). Such sociological approach views personal skills as the critical driver of community’s social and economic prosperity that is inextricably linked to the qualified workforce. It also leads to the awareness of the crucial meaning of efficient interplay between social institutions, whose specific goals join and integrate into a single global purpose. Inefficient cooperation undermines the role of every participating social institution. The article “Will California Run Out of College Graduates?” by Hans Johnson, Manson Cuellar Mejia, and Sarah Bohn highlighted the issue of workforce skills gap as an outcome of inefficient cooperation between the institutions of education and labor market. Thus, in the analysis, the interplay between mentioned social institutions will be explored by the means of fundamental sociological theories highlighting income inequalities and possible outcomes affecting people with different status.

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Before discussing any social institutions, it is worth to address the definition of this sociological concept. According to Dalton Conley, social institution is “the complex group of the interdependent positions performing together a social role” (13). Social institutions influence numerous aspects of human behavior. In addition, they transform in the process of interaction with people and other institutions, and gain the meaning that people ascribe to them (Conley, 15). Two social institutions were involved in the issue of workforce skills gap and discussed in the article. The first social institution implicit in the report is education, which implies the process of developing “the academic, social and cultural tools and idea” (Conley, 497). If forming of the elementary skills and knowledge belongs to the primary schools’ tasks, colleges are aimed at providing students with the abilities to be functional members of a society. Therefore, the institution of education should be sensitive to the labor market challenges. If it remains in the same condition, the lack of qualified workforces might occur. Thus, according to the research, continuous current educational trend in California will cost the labor market 5 percent of workers with a bachelor degree in 2030 (Johnson, Mejia and Bohn).

The second social institution is the labor market that is a vital component of a society. It is the primary customer of educational services and vice versa, as well as it is the leading contributor to the social institutions. It is worth admitting that the labor market investments in education are performed in the forms of motivation as well as financial support. New economic tendencies create the need for the research and latest scientific achievements are used to create workplaces that provoke the demand on appropriate high-qualified specialists. This clearly demonstrates the roles, meaning of educational institutions and labor market as well as their close interplay.

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Such close interaction between explored social institutions predetermines their shared inequalities. Although the social institution of education is supposed to provide equal opportunities for all, it also includes stratification that implies “social inequality between the groups of people that overlap, interact with and reinforce each other” (Conley, 240). For example, income inequality determines the students’ ability to access good education and finish it successfully. Thus, socioeconomic status, including “parental education attainment and occupational status, students’ family income and wealth”, is the crucial precursor for getting a decent education and bachelor’s degree (Conley, 520). To confirm this, article’s authors emphasize that the issue of workforce skills gap may be solved by improving access “for students from low-income groups” (Johnson, Mejia and Bohn).

Income inequality is also inherent in the social institution of the labor market since only high-qualified workers earn the highest wages. Thus, “college degree holders earned 60 percent more than similar workers who held only a high school diploma” (Johnson, Mejia and Bohn). The last group is not competitive on the labor market and thus, under the greater risk of unemployment. Thus, socioeconomic status of the students’ families determines their level of education, which, in turn, determines the occupation that is inextricably linked to the socioeconomic status of the graduates.

Income stratification component may be observed in both institutions. Along with this, income inequality is closely related to the ethnicity that limits educational and occupational opportunities for Black and Hispanic families. Speaking about modern market challenges caused by fast technological progress and the need for high-qualified workers in the technology sector, one can mention the gender inequality since girls are considered to be less competent in this field. Moreover, the society ascribes women the role of a householder and undermines their professional abilities. These last two inequalities one can read between the lines as they are not emphasized in the article.

Two sociological theories may be applied to explain why the workforce skills gap may occur in California or anywhere else, where inefficient interplay between the social institutions of education and labor market takes place. Functionalism is the first of them. It analyzes the world from the perspective of functionality and the “role that different aspects or phenomena play” (Conley, 29). Thus, everything and everyone in the world should fulfill their task, function or mission. If something goes wrong, it means that one of the involved components fails the task. According to this theory, the workforce skills gap occurs when the social institution of education does not consider the latest challenges of other institutions with the labor market occupying a leading place.

The second is the conflict theory that can help explain the issue highlighted in the article. According to it, “the competition, not consensus, is essential nature of all phenomena and this conflict drives social changes” (Conley, 30). Thus, followers of the theory claim that a conflict is an indicator of the urgent need for transformations. In the issue of workforce skills gap, the conflict of labor market demand and the number of needed specialists is directly linked to educationa. As if confirming this, article’s authors emphasize that negative outcome will occur “if persisting the current trend” and propose the measure for avoiding the worst forecasting. The conflict theory proposes one more perspective on the issue. It provides the explanation for the credentialism that means “overemphasis of credentials” such as the college degree explored in the article (Conley, 513). Thus, the preference of the labor market for the workers with the bachelor’s degree may indulge the elite class that is considered more educated because of their easy access to education.

Workforce skills gap that was explored based on California’s sample revealed the particular roles of two social institutions of education and labor market, as well as emphasized their close interrelation and its outcomes. Analysis of the issue helps understand the social process and their permanent interaction influencing each other. It confirms the stratification even in those fields that were designed to establish equality. It means that society and its institutions still have a lot of challenges that continue to change. It is worth to remember that a person is the central driving force for any social transformations and further development is a responsibility of every individual.