Friday, March 12, 2010

Should the Government Get In on Career Networking?

by Daniel L. Bennett

A new report from the Center for American Progress seems to suggest that the federal government needs to invest in a social networking (or career navigation) platform to help those with low skill and little education to learn about opportunities for development and training in one central place. The authors of the report indicate that there are currently many small pockets of information and programs available to help those in need find opportunities, but that they are too widely scattered - making it difficult for individuals to find help in re-training or career advancement.

Building a network, along the lines of LinkedIn or Careerbuilder, that organizes all of the available programs and opportunities for people in need of retraining in one place sounds like a pretty cool idea. But why does it have to be a government-financed and controlled project? Why not leave it to the the private marketplace that has brought us the likes of Myspace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Careerbuilder, Twitter and Monster - all very successful networking sites. Would it not be better for the private sector, subject to competition and the prospect of failure, to invest in developing such a system? It could even be a non-profit organization funded with private money from foundations or wealthy donors. Either would be a better option than a government-controlled system, which would not be subject to competition or failure, and would be an additional liability for taxpayers.

One other thing that bothered me in skimming through the report is that it mentioned many outlets for people in need of career navigation, including community colleges, labor unions, public workforce systems and community-based organizations, but failed to mention the career colleges - a private source for career development and enhancement. Career colleges play quite an important role in vocational and career training in America, so why exclude them as a source of re-training and career enhancement? Maybe the career colleges will band together to do just what the authors of this report suggest: build a central network of career development and enhancement opportunities at their schools, since they likely would be able to bring it to market sooner.

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