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Reskilling America

How Technical Education Can Transform Our Society

Katherine S. Newman, Hella Winston


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From Katherine Newman, award-winning author of No Shame in My Game, and sociologist Hella Winston, a sharp and irrefutable call to reenergize this nation's long-neglected system of vocational training

After decades of off-shoring and downsizing that have left blue collar workers obsolete and stranded, the United States is now on the verge of an industrial renaissance. But we don't have a skilled enough labor pool to fill the positions that will be created, which are in many cases technically demanding and require specialized skills. A decades-long series of idealistic educational policies with the expressed goal of getting every student to go to college has left a generation of potential workers out of the system. Touted as a progressive, egalitarian institution providing opportunity even to those with the greatest need, the American secondary school system has in fact deepened existing inequalities.

We can do better, argue acclaimed sociologists Katherine Newman and Hella Winston. Taking a page from the successful experience of countries like Germany and Austria, where youth unemployment is a mere 7%, they call for a radical reevaluation of the idea of vocational training, long discredited as an instrument of tracking. The United States can prepare a new, high-performance labor force if we revamp our school system to value industry apprenticeship and rigorous technical education. By doing so, we will not only be able to meet the growing demand for skilled employees in dozens of sectors where employers decry the absence of well trained workers -- we will make the American Dream accessible to all.

Praise For Reskilling America: How Technical Education Can Transform Our Society

“What a great and timely book! As the opportunity gap rises to the top of our national agenda, this compelling account of ‘on-ramps’ for the millions of young people left behind by the simplistic ‘college for all’ mantra is must reading for civic leaders and activists across the country. Newman and Winston combine irrefutable statistical and qualitative evidence to show exactly what needs to be done in vocational and technical education, apprenticeship programs, and community colleges to ensure rewarding careers and lives for all our kids.”
—Robert D. Putnam, author of Bowling Alone and Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis

“Vocational education—if done right, if reconceived—is not a relic of the past but the hope of the future. The reskilling described here may be the only way to save so many of our kids. Newman and Winston get it—and this very important book gets it across. It’s the very thing John Dewey would be telling us but Newman and Winston have done it just as well. Now we have the program. The rest is up to us.”
—Thomas Geoghegan, author of Only One Thing Can Save Us

Reskilling America argues persuasively for seriously reexamining our ‘college for all’ approach and placing greater emphasis on vocational programs to prepare students, especially students from disadvantaged backgrounds, for middle-skilled jobs. In this election year Newman and Winston’s insightful and provocative book is a must-read, especially for presidential candidates and policymakers.”
—William Julius Wilson, author of More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City

“Katherine Newman and Hella Winston have crafted a unique guide to understanding America’s struggle with vocational training. A much-needed book in the twenty-first century, Reskilling America exceptionally lays the foundation for a better America.”
—Wes Moore, Founder and CEO of BridgeEdU and author of The Other Wes Moore

Picador, 9781250148292, 272pp.

Publication Date: November 14, 2017

About the Author

Katherine S. Newman is the author of several books on topics ranging from urban poverty to middle-class economic insecurity to school violence. No Shame in My Game: the Working Poor in the Inner City received the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Book Prize and the Sidney Hillman Foundation Book Award.

Newman, who has held positions at Johns Hopkins, Harvard, and Princeton, is currently senior vice president for academic affairs for the University of Massachusetts system.

Hella Winston is a sociologist and investigative journalist. She has held postdoctoral fellowships in sociology at Princeton and Johns Hopkins universities and is currently a Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University. She is the author of Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels (Beacon Press, 2005). She lives in New York City.