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Reemphasizing the basics in a global economy October 26, 2006

Posted by Tom in Economic Development, Education, Workforce.

John Florez of Utah writes a strong op-ed that suggests a globally-ready workforce needs to get the building blocks right:

The global economy has changed our nation’s workplace to where there are boundless opportunities for those who have the knowledge and skills prepared to take them. Some require a college education. There are also many good-paying jobs that require higher skills. The past generation found that a high school diploma got you in the door to decent-paying jobs. But today, a high school diploma is no assurance that a graduate would have the basic skills needed to get one of the jobs in the current market.

Public education, designed for the industrial economy, is slow to change in preparing students with the skills required for the new high-performance workplace. Today, high-wage employers spend needless recruitment dollars trying to hire college graduates, and bypassing high school students, in order to find workers with strong basic skills. If all students left high school with those basic skills, employers would have a wider and less-expensive pool of workers from which to choose. Furthermore, parents would not have to send their children to college to get the basic education they should have received in high school.

Employers now have good-paying jobs that do not require a college degree but do require the new higher skills that include: (1) the hard skills — basic mathematics, problem solving and reading abilities at levels much higher than high school graduates now attain; (2) the “soft” skills — the ability to work in groups and to make effective oral presentations; skills many schools do not teach; (3) the ability to use personal computers to carry out simple tasks such as word processing. These are the new basic skills needed for all students, whether they go to college or not, regardless of gender, regardless of race.

Florez introduces his ideas in the context of USTAR (Utah Science, Technology and Research) — a new, $200 million economic development program. That Utah is investing $200 million in economic development should serve as a wakeup call to states who are not fortunate enough to be located in booming regions like the Rockies.



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