High-schoolers lack job skills, study says

Friday, June 12, 1998

BY DANA DiFILIPPO
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Only 7 percent of Ohio's high school seniors have the basic skills required for most skilled, entry-level jobs, according to a study released Thursday by the Ohio Business Roundtable, the Ohio Department of Education and ACT Inc.

As the workplace grows more complex, that lack of skills threatens Ohio's competitiveness and prosperity, education and business leaders said at a news conference in Columbus.

"Very simply, Ohio has a significant skills gap," said Richard Stoff, Ohio Business Roundtable president. "Too many job candidates are unable to read instruction manuals, complete simple forms or apply fundamental mathematical or scientific principles to work-related problems."

Roundtable members and state education officials commissioned the $100,000 study -- "Knowledge and Know-How: Meeting Ohio's Skill Gap Challenge" -- to see whether students understand the problem-solving skills companies demand.

ACT researchers tested about 14,500 seniors in 119 Ohio public high schools in November 1996.

Researchers bypassed the basics, such as reading, writing and simple math.

Instead, students were rated according to how well they could apply mathematical reasoning to work-related problems; read and understand written work-related instructions and policies; solve technological problems, such as applying principles of mechanics, electricity, thermodynamics or fluid mechanics to machines and equipment; and interpret and use diagrams, floor plans, tables, forms, graphs, charts and instrument gauges.

Students fared worst in the last two areas. Researchers attributed that to the absence of those skills in students' course work.

College-bound students earned higher scores than their peers because they tended to have more rigorous high school courses. And urban schools scored consistently lower than suburban and rural schools.

State education officials will use the study to revamp the way students are taught and tested, Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction John Goff said. Researchers also urged schools to set higher academic standards and increase accountability. Districts should revamp teacher training and offer students more internships and professional opportunities, they said.

"Too many job candidates are unable to read instruction manuals, complete simple forms or apply fundamental mathematical or scientific principles to work-related problems.' -- Richard Stoff, Ohio Business Roundtable president



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