Only one in 14, or 7 percent, of Ohio high school seniors is prepared for most entry-level jobs, according to a study commissioned by the Ohio Business Roundtable and the state education department.
Ohio is the first state to use the Work Keys assessment system to test a statistically representative sample of students and draw overall conclusions about their workplace skills, according to ACT Inc., the Iowa City, Iowa-based testing company that administers Work Keys. The test is designed to assess skills defined in job profiles provided by employers.
Ninety-five percent of Ohio test-takers, for example, had the math skills to be a beginning industrial-truck operator or shipping-order clerk. But only 6 percent had the math skills to be a computer-aided design technician or avionics technician.
The study found that only one in 14 students met the skill requirements for 80 percent of all profiled entry-level jobs. Positions ranged from a color-printer operator to a medical-records technician.
The Ohio seniors were tested in applied mathematics, reading for information, applied technology, and locating information. Students generally scored higher on applied mathematics and reading for information. They scored poorly in applied technology and locating information, in part, the study acknowledges, because these skills are not included in most students' curriculum.
The study also found that students in urban schools scored lower than their counterparts in rural and suburban schools. In the reading for information area, for example, 60 percent of rural and suburban students met the average skill requirement for 80 percent of entry-level jobs, compared with 49 percent of urban students.
The Ohio Business Roundtable supported the study because "companies are facing huge skill shortages that make them less productive or cause them to cut back or spend lots of money on retraining programs," said Donald Van Meter, a consultant to the business group.
With the study, "we are able to better identify what those [skill] gaps are so that we in the education community can work to address those issues," said Janet Durfee Hidalgo, the executive assistant to state schools Superintendent John M. Goff.
The report encourages employers to offer internships and to send "clear and credible messages" about their job needs, such as by matching them to Work Keys skill levels.
Educators are urged to measure and report student performance in a way that people in the community can act on the information.
--MARY ANN ZEHR
Vol. 17, Issue 41, Page 6