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The Skills Crisis Grows

September 27, 2001
Related Topics: Basic Skills Training, Featured Article
The business world's ever-increasing reliance on technology is creating a shockingly incompetent workforce. In a national survey, the American Management Association found that more than 40 percent of job applicants failed reading tests last year, and almost 35 percent failed math.

"New technologies have raised the bar in terms of necessary skills for many jobs, and higher levels of reading and math are required in job applicants," says Eric Rolfe Greenberg, director of management studies for the AMA. Required skills aren't the same as they were even just a few years ago, he notes.

Five years ago, the only requirements for a warehouse job, for example, were minimal literacy, a strong back, and a willing mind. Today, the same job requires additional skills such as the use of handheld scanners to control inventory.

"Workforce 2000," a study released in the early 1980s by the Hudson Institute, graphed the skill requirements needed for future jobs. One line moved ever upward, showing the dramatic increase in jobs that will require higher cognitive skill levels. The second line moved ever downward, indicating that the number of people who have the needed skills is continually decreasing.

The two lines crossed in 1997. Since then, skill shortages have only risen. In a 1998 AMA poll that asks HR professionals about the availability of talent, half of the respondents said that talent was scarce. Last year the number shot up to 76 percent.

Even though many jobs require more skills than applicants have, the report also shows that the number of companies that use testing is declining. Greenberg says that companies are less inclined to test because they simply can't be as selective.

Workforce, October 2001, p. 22 -- Subscribe Now!

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