For many years, there has been a lot of talk about skills gaps in the workforce, and in particular, among young people entering the workforce. These gaps relate to basic skills that extend beyond basic academic skills (reading, writing, math, etc.) to include higher-order thinking skills (creative thinking, problem-solving, etc.) and personal qualities (honesty, self-motivation, adaptability, etc.)
Another term being used frequently among educators and employers is work-readiness. What do you think of when you read that term? The basic skills referred to in the skills gap referenced above certainly apply, but one of the challenges we face is to help youth see the clear line of sight between what they learn in school and career exploration as it relates to their future occupations.
A key finding in the annual Teens and Careers Survey recently released by Junior Achievement USA (JA) and the ING U.S. Foundation underscores the need for additional work-readiness education for our youth. While 83 percent of teens are confident they will have their “dream” job, they aren’t taking the relatively easy steps now to get that career later on. A majority of teens surveyed (53 percent) indicated they had not taken any steps to pay for post-secondary education required by their choice of careers, or did not know if they had taken any steps. The financial aspect of work-readiness is an important one—young people need to consider whether their paycheck will be able to support the lifestyle they desire, in addition to repaying the student debt they might incur.
In 2011, according to USA Today, college loan debt had reached nearly $1 trillion. Another startling statistic is that among four-year colleges, just 56 percent of students met the goal of graduating within six years. At community colleges, fewer than 30 percent of students manage to earn an associate’s degree within three years, according to the NCES/IPEDS Graduation Survey. Students drop out of college for many reasons, such as not being academically prepared, which means they can run out of money (or go into more debt) before they have the chance to earn the post-secondary degree or certificate.
In their book The Missing Semester, authors Gene Natali and Matt Kabala state that much of the education system is designed to prepare for careers in specific occupations, but few teach “how to live” in relation to money. Work-readiness not only includes mastering the basic skills and “soft” skills, but clearly includes financial literacy as well. We owe it to our youth to help them see that line of sight to achieve their dream job without living paycheck to paycheck. iBi