Tuesday, April 17, 2012

College Grads Lack Skills for Workplace?

Job seekers entering the real world without real skills?

Reprinted with permission of FayObserver.com

Grueling end-of-course tests, stressful finals and pomp and circumstance are over for this year's 3 million high school graduates across the country.

About 70 percent will go on to a two- or four-year college, while 30 percent will go directly into the job market. Many high school graduates who go to college also will hold a job. But does a high school diploma or proficiency on exams mean that graduates have the skills to succeed in the workplace?

A recent study by ACT, the renowned education testing and research organization, found that while school curriculum and tests are driven by state standards, those standards are not rigorous enough to ensure that students are ready for college or the work force. Furthermore, a study by a consortium of experts concluded that the future U.S. work force is woefully ill-prepared for the demands of the workplace.

The survey of more than 400 employers across the U.S. concluded that high school (and college) graduates need skills in the following areas to succeed in the workplace:

• Professional/work ethic
• Critical thinking/ problem solving
• Oral and written communication
• Team work/ collaboration

Yet, 70 percent of employers rated new entrants into the work force with high school diplomas as deficient in professional/work ethics as well as critical-thinking and problem-solving abilities. An astounding 81 percent of employers reported high school graduates deficient in written communication. Overall, more than 40 percent of the employers rated recent high school graduates as deficient in overall preparation for entry-level jobs.

Consequently, while proficiency in basic skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic is fundamental and should be attained prior to high school graduation, and while obtaining a diploma is certainly laudable, a diploma nonetheless does not guarantee success in the workplace. Far from it. In addition to knowing how to read, write and calculate, a high school student must possess the ability to apply those basic skills and knowledge to the real work environment.

The consortium study suggests that all stakeholders (business, educators and community members) should consider methods of enhancing workplace skills. Internships, summer jobs, work-study programs, job shadowing, mentoring, on-the-job training and other educational approaches that include real-world experiences or community involvement, provide opportunities for students to acquire basic knowledge and skills, while cultivating applied skills.

Indeed, the workplace is changing and demands a higher level of skill than ever before. The global economy and our national social and economic future depend on our ability to increase the percentage of students who are not only equipped with basic skills but who are equipped with the ability to parlay those skills into successful and productive work experiences.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

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