Workforce skills

While a renewed emphasis on career-ready skills is welcome news (see earlier posting), it is necessary to look at the broad range of skills needed to cope with the I-Cubed (Information-Innovation-Intangibles) Economy. Recently, the Conference Board just issued a report on the skills of new entrants—recently hired graduates from high school, two-year colleges or technical schools, and four-year colleges. The skills businesses are looking for go well beyond technical skills:
Basic Knowledge /Skills
English Language (spoken)
Reading Comprehension (in English)
Writing in English (grammar, spelling, etc.)
Foreign Languages
Applied Skills
Critical Thinking/Problem Solving—Exercise sound reasoning and analytical thinking; use knowledge, facts, and data to solve workplace problems; apply math and science concepts to problem solving.
Oral Communications—Articulate thoughts, ideas clearly and effectively; have public speaking skills.
Written Communications—Write memos, letters and complex technical reports clearly and effectively.
Teamwork/Collaboration—Build collaborative relationships with colleagues and customers; be able to work with diverse teams, negotiate and manage conflicts.
Diversity—Learn from and work collaboratively with individuals representing diverse cultures, races, ages, gender, religions, lifestyles, and viewpoints.
Information Technology Application—Select and use appropriate technology to accomplish a given task, apply computing skills to problem-solving.
Leadership—Leverage the strengths of others to achieve common goals; use interpersonal skills to coach and develop others.
Creativity/Innovation—Demonstrate originality and inventiveness in work; communicate new ideas to others; integrate knowledge across different disciplines.
Lifelong Learning/Self Direction—Be able to continuously acquire new knowledge and skills; monitor one’s own learning needs; be able to learn from one’s mistakes.
Professionalism/Work Ethic—Demonstrate personal accountability, effective work habits, e.g., punctuality, working productively with others, and time and workload management.
Ethics/Social Responsibility—Demonstrate integrity and ethical behavior; act responsibly
with the interests of the larger community in mind.
Unfortunately, American students are not doing as well as they need to in these areas:

The results of this study leave little doubt that improvements are needed in the readiness of new workforce entrants, if “excellence” is the standard for global competitiveness. While the employer respondents report that some new workforce entrants have “excellent” basic knowledge and applied skills, significant “deficiencies” exist among entrants at every educational level, especially those coming directly from high school.
High School Graduates are:
• “Deficient” in the basic knowledge and skills of Writing in English, Mathematics, and Reading Comprehension,
• “Deficient” in Written Communications and Critical Thinking⁄Problem Solving, both of which may be dependent on basic knowledge and skills,
• “Deficient” in Professionalism⁄Work Ethic, and
• “Adequate” in three “very important” applied skills: Information Technology Application, Diversity, and Teamwork/Collaboration.
Two-year and four-college graduates are:
• Better prepared than high school graduates for the entry-level jobs they fill,
• “Deficient” in Writing in English and Written Communications, and
• “Deficient” in Leadership.

And, unfortunately, the report offers only general suggestions as to how to improve the situation:

All stakeholders should examine the areas of greatest “deficiency” and “excellence,” and consider developing cross-sector approaches to aid in the new entrants’ development. Diversity, Teamwork/Collaboration, and Information Technology Application are now perceived as areas in which the graduates are “adequate.” How collaboration between business and schools on these skills has been promoted is an important area for assessment and modeling.
Business should consider calculating the actual costs of remedial training and determine the financial implications of providing versus not providing remedial training—both in the short and longer term—and should evaluate alternative methods of intervention.
Businesses should provide better training for new entrants so they better understand the expectations for advancement and are prepared to chart realistic career paths for themselves.
Educators should consider assessing current curricula in response to the deficiencies and future needs reported in the survey. They should research promising models for incorporating more hands-on and practical experience for students in the curricula and seek ways to involve community organizations and businesses to pilot workforce-applicable learning opportunities.
Young people and their families should assume a significant responsibility for learning and teaching, respectively. Students—the future entrants into the workforce—and their families should assume responsibility for seeking relevant and creative ways to develop basic knowledge and applied skills to enable them to succeed in the workforce.

This is not the first study to lay out what skills are needed in the I-Cubed Economy, and to point out the “deficiencies.” What is needed is concrete example of curriculum for schools and of on-the-job and other business provided programs to rectify the situation. Otherwise, we will continue to do nothing but study the problem to death.
(Thanks to Convergence for point us to this study.)

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