Skill Wars

Published June 1, 2003

In his 1999 book, Skill Wars: Winning the Battle for Productivity and Profit, management consultant Edward E. Gordon warns America’s current economic supremacy could be compromised by poor quality education. Unless our public schools are reinvented, Gordon predicts, unskilled U.S. workers risk becoming “the techno-peasants of the information age.”

The knowledge-based economy of today requires a public education system that produces graduates who are better-educated and more technically savvy than prior generations. But that’s not happening, says Gordon, and surveys bear him out.

The National Association of Manufacturers reported in 1998 that 40 percent of all 17-year-olds lacked the math skills to hold down a production job at a manufacturing plant, and 60 percent lacked the reading skills.

Nearly seven out of 10 employers say high school graduates lack the skills to succeed at work, according to a 1998 Public Agenda report. Public Agenda’s annual Reality Check reports also that only 41 percent of employers–compared to 78 percent of teachers and 67 percent of parents–think public school graduates have the skills to succeed in the work world.