EB104 - Workforce Lacking Skills © Question:   I hire entry level staff for a job that requires a college degree and am amazed by the lack of basic literacy and skills I have found.  Are people coming out of college generally so unprepared for work?

Larry:  I often hear managers complain about the lack of analytical skills or common sense their employees exhibit.  The depth of people's competence in the workplace is very dependent upon basic literacy skills and the information they have mastered in school.  So a consistent sample of poorly skilled prospects clearly points to the failure of our families and schools to produce educated people.  The simple dictionary definition of "wisdom" repeats this practical formula: "wisdom is knowledge of what is true and right coupled with good judgment."  I've seen so much of what you're describing that I often ask myself "knowledge -- of what, and from where?"

The following excerpt from an article by AP Education Writer Ben Feller might explain why we are experiencing so many high error rates on simple business tasks.  Brace yourself.  It's scary stuff but it might be a reasonable explanation for the problems you are experiencing.  Feller writes:

Nearing a diploma, most college students cannot handle many complex but common tasks, from understanding credit card offers to comparing the cost per ounce of food. Those are the sobering findings of a study of literacy on college campuses, the first to target the skills of students as they approach the start of their careers.

"More than 75 percent of students at two-year colleges and more than 50 percent of students at four-year colleges do not score at the proficient level of literacy.  This means that they lack the skills to perform complex literacy tasks, such as comparing credit card offers with different interest rates or summarizing the arguments of newspaper editorials."

The surprisingly weak quantitative literacy ability of many college graduates is troubling,” says Dr. Stéphane Baldi, who directed the AIR study.  “A knowledgeable workforce is vital to cope with the increasing demands of the global marketplace.”

Read Dr. Baldi's Report on the American Institutes for Research Website