Most Adults Want More Education
More than half of adults ages 25 to 60 want to obtain more education, according to a study of more than 1100 people. The study was conducted for Capella University, a Minneapolis-based online university. The study reports that two of the five top motivators to pursue more education are focused on career goals: Find a new career or make more money. "One of the big surprises was the mix of reasons why people thought it would be beneficial to get more education," comments Lyungai Mbilinyi, who authored the study. "We thought that the prospect of a higher income would come out on top – and although 71 percent did think additional education would help them earn more, several intangibles were rated even higher." Eighty-one percent associated higher education with a personal sense of accomplishment, and 78 percent believed education would help them better develop their talents or pursue their interests. Additional education is a plus for anyone, but Capella’s study shows it is being embraced by people we don’t typically think of as college students. Since 1970, the number of college students over the age of 25 has nearly tripled. Today, 38 percent of the 17.6 million students enrolled in colleges and universities are older than 25.
Women Cite Workplace Disparities
Mars and Venus are still at odds in the workplace, with female workers continuing to report gaps in pay and career advancement opportunities, according to a recent CareerBuilder.com survey. 35 percent of women say they are paid less than male counterparts who have similar experiences and qualifications in their organizations, up from 31 percent in the company’s 2003 survey. Comparing age groups, younger female workers reported fewer instances of pay disparity. "The perceived inequality women are experiencing in the workplace extends to career progress," claims Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder.com. "32 percent of women report their employers offer less career advancement options to women than men." When asked to identify the cause for the disparity in pay and upward mobility, 27 percent of women attributed it to being less apt to schmooze with management. The good news, according to Haefner: "We are seeing more and more companies remedying recruitment, compensation and promotion practices to provide the same opportunities to all workers, regardless of gender and cultural background."
On the Job Front
NATIONWIDE – Last week’s report that employers only generated 51,000 new US jobs in September overshadowed a startling government revision. The Bureau of Labor Statistics now says it underreported 810,000 jobs for one year ending in March. The upbeat news about past growth will not, however, temper a slowdown in the current job market. Economists say the housing slump will cut monthly job growth to under six figures . . . Former workers at the many Albertson’s supermarkets that closed in July might want to consider a job in discount clothing. Ross Stores announced last week they will acquire 46 Albertson’s sites in six states, including California, and convert them into Ross outlets or its sister brand, DD’s Discounts. The stores will open as early as March . . . A federal court last week ruled that UPS cannot deny hearing-impaired drivers an opportunity at employment. Deaf and hard-of-hearing applicants, however, must prove they are as safe as employees with normal hearing. The action of the Ninth US District Court of Appeals in San Francisco upholds a lower court ruling that found UPS had violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by excluding deaf applicants for driving positions. UPS plans to appeal . . . Wells Fargo Bank has agreed to pay $12.8 million in order to settle a class-action lawsuit that charged the firm improperly made some workers exempt from overtime pay. As many as 4500 workers are covered by the settlement . . . American companies can expect a little less sticker shock from their health insurance premiums in 2007. Hewitt Associates, employee benefits consultants, forecast an increase of 7.7 percent, the lowest in eight years. The cost of insuring workers and their families will average $8340 per employee, up from $7744 this year.
STATEWIDE – A group of 650 economists, including five Nobel Prize winners, last week called upon the federal government to increase the minimum wage, which has been frozen at $5.15 an hour since 1997. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have set their minimums higher. In California, Governor Schwarzenegger recently signed legislation that will increase the rate from $6.75 to $8 by 2008.
MOUNTAIN VIEW – Responding to criticism that its hiring process is too grueling, the fast-growing search engine Google told Computer World that it has reduced the number of job interviews per candidate to just over five. The magazine pointed out that Google listed 1103 job openings on its website as of Sept 30 and hired 1152 workers in just the second quarter.
RANCHO CORDOVA – Health Net Inc, a widely used provider of health insurance plans, had leased 112,000 square feet of office space. The new quarters will allow the firm to consolidate other offices and provide space for growth.
SACRAMENTO – Mortgage Lenders Network plans to hire 200 office workers to staff a processing center in Natomas. The Connecticut-based employer eventually plans to have 325 workers at the site . . . Jobseekers might want to keep an eye on the status of the defunct Tower Records locations. Many retailers have expressed interest in the sites of the former record outlets since the locations typically have prime downtown addresses.
SAN JOSE – Mervyns department stores opened a new store here and in three other locations across the nation last week. The chain, which has closed 70 unprofitable stores the last two years, vows to continue to expand in its core markets.
Nanotechnology’s Big Danger
Nanotechnology – the science of making ultra-small products and tools – is so new, no state or federal rules address the specific risks faced by workers in the field. That, despite the fact that exposure to nano-size particles on the order of a millionth of a millimeter can trigger very toxic biological reactions. Nanoparticles pose other workplace risks. They can be hundreds of times more combustible than common, micron-size particles, raising the possibility of explosion. Some behave like little ball bearings and can cause slips and falls, commonplace events that already account for one in seven workplace deaths. Regulators say they need more data before setting standards. But of the $1.2 billion the government has proposed spending on its National Nanotechnology Initiative in 2007 – a research funding program to help jump-start the promising sector – only about two-tenths of 1 percent is earmarked to study workplace safety issues. "We don’t want to be sitting around 20 years from now saying, Gee, I wish we had looked into this," warns Charles Geraci, a branch chief at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which is aggressively exploring the big issues surrounding the littlest industry.