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Poorly prepared grads struggle to find jobs

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

The statistics are appalling. In 2011, over 20 million people graduated from U.S. colleges and universities. According to a recent Rutgers University study, only about half of these graduates have full time jobs and less than 30% of those that are employed have jobs that require a college degree. To make matters more challenging, over 60% of these college alumnae have loan obligations.

What happened?

Globalization.
Many countries have done a better job of preparing their young people for 21st century jobs. Foreign graduates often fluently speak more than one language; have excellent math, science and language arts skills; and are as creative as people educated in the U.S. Information Age technology allows companies to hire the best candidate whether that person is in Istanbul or two blocks down the street. As a result, U.S. job applicants are at a competitive disadvantage.

Economy.
U.S. companies have been adding jobs, but about three-quarters of the assignments are overseas. The economy is better in other parts of the world and U.S. companies find it less arduous to hire offshore. As a result, U.S. graduates are competing for a smaller number of domestic jobs.

Academic Preparation and Grade Inflation.
The world has become more technical and most jobs require strong analytical skills. Companies that once hired large numbers of liberal arts majors are now focusing employment efforts on graduates with science and math backgrounds. In addition, only about 20% of U.S. high school graduates are at grade level in math and only about 30% are proficient in language arts, even though over 70% of the students get nearly perfect grades. Many parents are not aware of that grades and student knowledge are not correlated. School systems have been slow to make parents aware of the gap.

Work Ethic.
Recent graduates were raised when money flowed freely, jobs were plentiful and technology products were cheap babysitters. As a result, many graduates did not learn basic life skills including reliability, social graces and punctuality.

Teacher preparation.
Many primary and secondary teachers who were educated in the U.S. do not have the background to teach science and math at international levels.

If we want our kids to have good jobs, we need more accountability. It is critical that K-12 schools assess student knowledge using rigorous international benchmarks and align grades with knowledge. Then parents need to make sure their children learn to set goals and develop a strong work ethic.

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