The Perils Of Investing Only In The ‘Winners’
Career College Central summary:
The money involved was relatively small. But when President Obama on Monday announced a new grant program to encourage communities to develop hybrid high schools that blend a secondary education with career training and college credit, he correctly identified a challenge that is growing steadily more urgent: widening the circle of young Americans with the skills to reach the middle class.
On balance, the evidence doesn't support the often-expressed fear that a shortage of necessary skills—a skills gap—is meaningfully enlarging today's unemployment rate. If employers really lacked enough high-skilled applicants for available openings, wages for such workers would be rising. And there's no sign that is happening, as Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner Erica Groshen noted at a National Journal forum this week. But over the long term, a deficit of skilled workers could constrain productivity gains, widen inequality, and prompt employers to locate demanding, high-wage jobs overseas.
The skill level of the adult American workforce follows patterns familiar from the college outcomes for our young people. At its pinnacle, the American higher-education system is a marvel that lures the best and brightest from around the globe. Yet in 11 other countries, a larger share of young people now complete postsecondary degrees than in the U.S. And the American students who cross that threshold tend to be those with the good sense to be born into opportunity: Children whose parents hold college degrees are now five times more likely to graduate themselves than those whose parents do not.
The international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found similar results when it conducted a groundbreaking study last fall of the skills held by the adult workforce in major economies around the globe. On tests that measured competency in reading, math, and problem-solving, U.S. adults scored below the international average each time. Brilliant American innovators such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg have defined the Information Age as much as Rockefeller and Carnegie shaped the industrial one, but overall the U.S. trailed 15 countries (of 23 measured) in reading, 20 in math, and 13 in problem-solving.
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