High School Grads Lack College, Work Skills

Published January 1, 2000

While public school educators frequently raise concerns that many entry-level students don’t come to school “ready-to-learn,” many employers and college professors raise similar concerns about the work product of these same educators: high school graduates aren’t “ready-to-learn” in college or “ready-to-work” in business.

For example, while Public Agenda’s Winter 1999 newsletter reported that 92 percent of public school teachers believe the public schools are doing a quality job, only 33 percent of employers agree.

It’s not a new problem. A 1996 test of more than 14,000 graduating high school seniors in Ohio found that only one in 14 had the skills needed to succeed in the business world. Business executives at a meeting of the Ohio Business Roundtable earlier this year advocated more demanding academic courses for all students–not just those who were college-bound.

In Maryland, the April 1999 Business Climate Survey reported that half of the 250 businesses surveyed said workers with only a high school education lacked basic education skills and did not behave responsibly in the workplace. Richard Clinch, a program manager at the University of Baltimore, noted that two-thirds of the jobs available in Maryland companies did not require a college degree. Half the battle is on-the-job training, he said, but “the other half is–surprise!–job readiness.”