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Did School Teach You the Skills to Get the Job Done?

We spend many years in school with the belief that a good education will prepare us for the many more years we'll spend at work. But, what you learn in the classroom can take you only so far. It's the work experience that's most critical in helping you get where you want to go in your career.

Employers expect everyone to come out of school with a set of basic skills, notably math, writing, reading, and at least some computer proficiency. Rather than worry about how well employees can add, subtract, speak, or write and send an email, employers would rather focus on the stuff that matters most: increasing revenue, keeping costs down, making processes more efficient, and making sure everyone's working to their full capabilities and getting along like a bunch of happy campers.

Yet, according to a recent survey by The Conference Board, about 34% of employers believe high school graduates are not prepared for the workforce, and about 17% say the same of four-year college grads. In fact, close to half of employers feel the need to provide some form of "workforce readiness training" to boost new employees' skills after they're hired. Most employers focus their programs on skills such as teamwork/collaboration, leadership, and technology skills. Some even offer programs on enhancing communications skills.

But there's a bright spot here: When The Conference Board conducted a similar survey in 2006, most employers found that new high school grads were "adequately" prepared in technology skills and teamwork/collaboration. (The fact that teenagers are more technically adept than their parents is a big help.) Maybe we can take that as a sign that school systems are expanding beyond the basic subjects and aligning what's being taught with the skills workplaces really need.

Allow me to pose two questions to launch a discussion:

  1. Do you believe your classroom education prepared you well for the workforce?
  2. Have your employers provided training in skills that matter in the workplace?

Let us know in a comment.

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