Young Americans are faring poorly in the major skills required to compete in the global labor market, according to a new study by the Education Testing Service (ETS). The report, which focuses on young adults born after 1980, also says that a large segment of society lacks the skills required for higher-level employment and meaningful engagement in democracy.
American students are scoring low marks in literacy, numeracy, and computer-age problem-solving skills. In the international tests, they came last in math skills along with Italy and Spain and landed in the bottom of the pack in problem-solving, along with Ireland, Poland and Slovakia.
ETS says it used the data from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) to compare the United States to 21 other member countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The report comes barely a month after the Washington Center for Equitable Growth stated that U.S. economy could gain US$10 trillion in revenue by 2050 if its workforce increased its proficiency in math and science.
“This report suggests that far too many are graduating high school and completing postsecondary educational programs without receiving adequate skills,” writes Irwin Kirsch, Director of ETS’s Center for Global Assessment, in the report’s preface.
The analysis found that more than half of U.S. millennials lack proficiency when it comes to applying reading and math skills at the workplace. In fact, in numeracy, the U.S.’s top performing millennials scored lower than top-performing millennials in 15 of the 22 participating countries, indicating that the skills challenge is systemic. Low-scoring U.S. millennials ranked last and scored lower than their peers in 19 participating countries.
The report goes on to say that policymakers and researchers need to make clear what kind of training they would initiate to increase their skills, because students are already shelling out huge sums of money on education.
“Societies that display this pervasive inequality are likely to experience adverse consequences, including mistrust in government, decreased civic engagement, increased rates of incarceration, poor health, obesity, addiction and more,” the report noted.