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Workforce Education -                  A New Roadmap 

William B. Bonvillian and Sanjay E. Sarma (MIT Press 2021)

“Bonvillian and Sarma tackle one of the toughest, and most important problems facing the United States. Their survey of today's decentralized, disconnected 'system' of workforce education is often a tour of disappointments and shortcomings but it also takes us to programs that work and that might lend themselves to replication under committed national leadership. The authors offer no single silver bullet, but a raft of tools and principles for business, government, and educators to follow.”

Robert Siegel

former host of NPR's All Things Considered

WBB photo Cover Workforce Education 2021 .jpg

A roadmap for how we can rebuild America's working class by transforming workforce education and training.

The American dream promised that if you worked hard, you could move up, with well-paying working-class jobs providing a gateway to an ever-growing middle class. Today, however, we have increasing inequality, not economic convergence. Technological advances are putting quality jobs out of reach for workers who lack the proper skills and training. In Workforce Education, William Bonvillian and Sanjay Sarma offer a roadmap for rebuilding America's working class. They argue that we need to train more workers more quickly, and they describe innovative methods of workforce education that are being developed across the country.

It's not just that we need a pipeline of skilled workers for future jobs; we need to give workers the skills they need now. Focusing on manufacturing, healthcare, and retail sectors, the authors investigate programs that reimagine workforce education, from short intensive courses that offer certification to a new model for apprenticeships. They examine the roles of community colleges, employers, governments, and universities in workforce education, and describe new education technologies that can deliver training to workers. We can't tackle inequality unless we equip our workers for twenty-first-century jobs.

Additional Reviews:

  • Bonvillian and Sarma make a clear and convincing case for the necessity and potential of this new path. Their work will appeal to a broad readership, particularly those interested in policy change for social good.

    Library Journal, STARRED Review

  • "The economic, social and demographic shifts summarized in the early chapters of Workforce Education are breathtaking, being so economically and thoughtfully laid out. This is the best exposition I have seen of the employment-unemployment-underemployment trends in one place."

    Gordon Freeman

    Workforce Monitor

  • “Bonvillian and Sarma have given us a thought-provoking assessment of the state of workforce preparation and a roadmap for restoring productivity to the American workforce. They cite innovative examples that, if scaled, offer opportunities for workers, benefits for employers, and advancement for the broader society. This book should be read.”

    Peter McPherson

    President of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities

  • “Work in America is changing, and the current health and economic crises are accelerating and deepening those changes. Education has and will be the key connector between individuals and the world of work. Bonvillian and Sarma have written a careful, nuanced, and detailed analysis of both the current state of workforce education and its potential, illustrated by real examples and propelled by genuine optimism. Workforce Education is a needed and valuable contribution for policymakers, employers, and educators alike.”

    Ted Mitchell

    President of the American Council on Education

  • “Bonvillian and Sarma present an alarming problem statement backed by a rich evidence base of data. Their presentation of a compelling set of innovative strategies and policy recommendations at the institutional, state, and federal levels, offers a new vision, or roadmap, to a more equitable prosperity for our country.”

    Mark Mitsui

    former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges, US Department of Education

Information on the book is here:

Materials on the book project: 

OECD Policy Forum, "Can Online Education 'Retool' the Post-Pandemic Workforce?", Sanjay Sarma and William B. Bonvillian, June 11, 2021, here:

Issues in Science and Technology, "America Needs A New Workforce Education System," March 9, 2021

Video on Workforce Education Needs in the Retail Sector - MIT Industrial Liaison Program (ILP) presentation by Sanjay Sarma and William Bonvillian, December 15, 2020

Podcast on the Workforce Education Project from Prof. Patrick O’Shea of Appalachian State Univ. with Sanjay Sarma and William B. Bonvillian (Versalist podcast for the Immersive Learning Research Network), November 23, 2020

Research Brief for the MIT Work of the Future project: Sanjay Sarma and William B. Bonvillian, Applying New Education Technologies to Meet Workforce Education NeedsMIT Work of the Future research brief, October 2020

MIT News, “3 Questions: Sanjay Sarma and Bill Bonvillian on new technologies in workforce education"Discussion of their Research Brief from MIT Work of the Future, November 2, 2020

 MIT News, “Workforce Education Project details how Covid-19 upends assumptions."
Report finds that higher education institutions can play a significant role in reforming workforce education, April 28, 2020








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