Are We Preparing Students To Be Employees and Entrepreneurs In America’s Economy?
In 2006, J. Willard Marriott, Jr., Chairman and CEO of Marriott International, Inc. stated, “Our nation’s long-term ability to succeed in exporting to the growing global marketplace hinges on the abilities of today’s students.” He was commenting on the need for two parties two work together to ensure the economic well-being of the United States. He wanted them to both do their part in making sure the economic role on the world stage not only remained secure but grew. His remarks, included in “Are They Really Ready to Work?” looked at the ability for American graduates to take up their role as part of the economic engine (Final Report, 2006).
What skills does our youth need?
The 2006 report surveyed employers. They provided a list of skills they felt workers needed to succeed. Of particular importance were not only specific academic skills but also the ability apply what they knew in the real life situation. What employers felt important to help guarantee success in the working world were the following:
• Oral and Written Communications
• Work Ethic
• Critical Thinking
• Problem Solving
These characteristics are indeed valuable not only to succeed as an employee but also to create entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs and employees alike must be able to direct and harness what they have learned at school – whether high school, college or university. This is true whether they are working on the factory floor or creating and building up their own business.
How do American youths rate?
According to Arne Duncan, the United States Secretary of Education, the 2011 NAEP results indicate Americans are not excelling. They are not achieving the goals quickly enough to make a significant impact in the knowledge-based economy 21st century. The education system is not preparing children and youth to be a profitable contributory factor in the future growth of the nation (Klein, 2012). In fact, according to Vinton Cerf, an Internet entrepreneur, not one but two systems fail them: “the deteriorating K–12 education system and a national culture that does not emphasize the importance of education and the value of engineering and science” (Peterson et al, 2011).
Yet, these skills are very important for the survival of youths in the business world and the key for global supremacy of the American economic system. Whether students are to be entrepreneurs or worker bees, they need these basic skills. The question is, how can American industry compete globally if both high school and college graduates are not excellent but merely adequate? If they arrive to work with the qualifications for the job on paper but not in practice?
What to do?
The general consensus from the major economic stakeholders is that students are not making the grade. A change has to be made to prepare them for the workplace as it is now and as it will be in the future. Educators, employers, government and community business leaders need to work together. They should consider how school can lead to practical results without negatively impacting the creative and thought processes. Among the more common suggestions are:
• Co-op programs featuring forms of internships
• Encouraging summer jobs in related fields of interest
• Combining work-study programs
• Job shadowing
• On-the-job training
• Increased focus on technology and how it does and will continue to affect the workplace
• Integrating education technology even further into the classroom
Michael Brown, who shared the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1985, remarked on one specific area of concentration he believes will lead America firmly on the road to innovation – math and sciences. He states “Math and science are the engines of innovation. With these engines we can lead the world.”
In 2011, President Obama succinctly summarized what the United States must do to be competitive in the Global marketplace with these words, “We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” (Peterson et al.,2011) Everyone must do their part to ensure American students are not only well-prepared for the demands of the 21st century workplace, but can rise above it to help push the economy of the United States forcefully to the front of the Global economy.