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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The United States & the Global Skills Challenge

By Andrew H. Potter, M.A.; M.A. (NEJS)


Once a world leader in workforce readiness, the United States now finds itself surpassed by at least 12 other countries, according to a landmark study conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The study, A Skills Beyond School Review of the United States, argues that the United States is facing a “global skills challenge” as other OECD countries raise the education and skill levels of their respective workforces. The study identified three central challenges that U.S. students face as they transition from high school to college and career:

Basic employability skills of U.S. teens are relatively weak when compared to other OECD countries.

  1. The greater opportunity afforded U.S. teens actually makes the identification of a career pathway more difficult.
  2. Impacted by the first two factors, the investment in postsecondary education tends to be more risky for U.S. teens compared to other OECD countries, as the relationship between costs and return on education investment can vary widely.

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Today’s U.S. students need more help to be workforce ready. A recent Accenture survey, for example, finds that 40 percent of recent U.S. college graduates are unemployed or need more training to get on career track. Fifty-eight percent of human resource management professionals say workers entering the job market over the next decade lack applied skills that will make them successful in the workplace, according to a Society for Human Resource Management report.

The company where I work, Envision, is dedicated to partnering with parents and educational institutions to provide students with the applied skills, knowledge and behaviors they must have to succeed in the 21st century. Our unique experiential approach to career success incorporates three major objectives, helping students improve how they:

Identify possible career paths and their pre-requisites through career-focused seminars and faculty presentations.

  • Embrace key applied skills such as time management, creativity, communication and collaboration.
  • Analyze and apply knowledge through inquiry-based learning approaches that stress critical thinking, analysis, reasoning, and problem solving.

With better knowledge about careers and job choices, improved applied skills and increased capacity to analyze information and innovate, students can be better prepared to compete in the global knowledge economy.

Andrew Potter is the Vice President of Education at Envision.