On your next coffee break, take a minute to read this WSJ story by David Wessell, The article, Lack of Well-Educated Workers Has Lots of Roots, No Quick Fix, highlights the hiring challenges you continue to face, even though there are a growing number of college graduates.
A history of the U.S. workforce
Early 1900s – A majority of Americans only had an 8th grade education. Our agrarian society required more hands in the field, leaving less in the classroom.
Late 1920s – Over half of the next generation of workers were going to high school, though not all that started high school earned a diploma.
1955 – The average Americans age 30 completed 10.9 years of education.
1980 – In 25 years, the education level for the average American age 30 surged dramatically – to 13.2 years of education.
2005 – The pace slowed considerably in the succeeding 25 years. The average American in their 30s now has 13.9 years of education.
The average number of years of education continues to rise slowly in the U.S. The global view, however, puts our modest advances in perspective. Most developed nations are easily running head-to-head with the U.S. And we are lagging behind Japan, Korea, Canada, Belgium, Ireland, and Sweden in the number of 25 to 34 year olds with college degrees.
More education = More $$$
For most graduates, completing a degree is financially rewarding.
1982: College grads (undergrad) were paid 40% more than high school graduates
Today: College grads are paid 75% more than those with high school diplomas
It is clear that a better-educated and more technically-skilled labor force is required for today’s job market.
Not everyone makes the cut
Even though a college education provides a clear financial advantage, there are many young people who are not up to the challenge.
25% of 18 year-old Americans have NOT graduated from high school.
About 65% of new high school graduates attend college, but 13% drop out their first year and 43% of those between 22 and 34 never complete a degree.
By my estimation, only about 1/3 of all potential U.S. high school graduates continues to collage and obtains an undergraduate degree. The 75% additional pay can be tracked to both the higher level of education/skills and simple supply and demand factors in the economy. Of course, the millions of workers who have chosen the U.S over their native soil have softened the supply side. Still, the outlook of selecting employees from a large pool of well-educated, loyal and highly motivated candidates may well be part of our history.
If education is the problem, then a complete overhaul of our education must be the right solution. However, any changes will be hard fought and measured, at best. While Congress muddles through education fixes, business leaders must move forward and develop their own solutions.
Have you thought about a long-term workforce strategy to attract, hire and retain your employees? Do you have a training program in place to keep your employees current in technologies? Are you developing your employees to your competitive advantage?
Maybe a well-planned and executed training plan is the key. Maybe providing incentives for those who best adapt, create and inspire is the solution. Maybe an end-to-end hiring and performance review program, which rewards mentoring and developing others is the trick. Maybe the solution is developing better criteria to screen candidates against.
Lots of maybes. Please share your successes and maybe we will have a few less maybes.