The Herman Trend Alert|
January 17, 2001
Basic Education at Work
Employers are increasingly frustrated by workers' deficiencies in fundamental reading, writing, and math skills. The labor shortage is complicated by the difficulty in finding people who are qualified to work . . . or at least trainable. Insufficient basic education makes training considerably more challenging.
American Management Association studies reveal that over 38 percent of 1999 job applicants lacked the literacy and numeracy skills required to perform the jobs they applied for, according to AMA's annual survey on workplace testing. This figure is alarming when compared against the same measures in recent years: 35.5 percent in 1998 and 22.8 percent in 1997.
Several factors influence the greater numbers. First, we're reaching much further into the labor pool, hiring people with less preparation for work. The problem is exacerbated by the higher capacities demanded by computerized processes and expectations that employees will be able to perform a wider range of skill-dependent tasks. A third factor is the inadequate development of students in our public school systems.
The AMA study reported that more companies are testing for basic skills, something we'd certainly expect given requirements and exposures involved in hiring today. We learned that only 13 percent of the companies surveyed offer employees remedial training. This remedial training costs an average of only $289 per trainee.
Our forecast is that more employers will invest in remedial education for their workers. Employers will be forced into this effort; the decision won't be easy. Once committed, however, employers will strive to provide a valuable, comprehensive, and effective educational program. This venture will be expensive, but a wise investment in attracting, growing, and retaining people who sincerely want to learn and earn. Language, culture, and life-management skills will be taught along with the basics.
Teachers will be recruited from public school systems, already faced with serious staff shortages. Corporations will pay more, provide better facilities, and offer adult students motivated to learn. Some companies will collaborate with school systems to award diplomas to graduates, fostering cooperative teacher-sharing arrangements.
Secondary impact: school systems will feel even more pressure to adjust teacher compensation, working conditions, and facilities.
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