Study Finds U.S. Workers Lack Essential Skills - 8 News NOW

Study Finds U.S. Workers Lack Essential Skills

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LAS VEGAS - A new study reveals adult workers need more time in school. The study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows adult workers are unprepared, and it may be hurting our economy.

Researchers tested more than 100,000 teens and adults from 24 countries on their basic reading and math skills. The United States ranked below average or near the bottom in almost every category.

Read the OECD Study

The study also shows many adults cannot master simple computer skills such as using a computer mouse, calculating mileage reimbursement or comparing food expiration dates on grocery store tags.

Manpower, a company that works globally to recruit and train job hunters, recognizes this crisis. Manpower Las Vegas Vice President Jeff Parker says they often recruit out-of-state for certain jobs because of the skills gap.

Parker says the demand for work has drastically changed.

"An administrative assistant may have used to only have to answer a phone, schedule and do some memos, but today, they're doing some finance, work with a web program in order to maintain a website," he said. "So, the skill sets have increased dramatically, and the expectations of those positions."

College and university instructors, meanwhile, often have to teach students high-school level skills before beginning college-level work.

"When we look at the CCSD kids where we draw most of our students from, their background - at least thirty to forty percent of them - their math is at least a year away from ready to start college," said UNLV Hughes College of Engineering Interim Dean Rama Venkat. "That is not good, so we have a lot of remedial programs."

Venkat says the problem goes beyond incoming freshmen. He says some upper-classmen are so apprehensive about their math skills, they will wait until their senior year to satisfy their math requirements.

He says UNLV has three major programs to determine student skills and prepare students for college-level courses: a math learning center, a boot camp and a summer bridge program.

Parker says schools are trying to close the gap between skills and employer needs. A coalition of 48 states, including Nevada, has implemented the Common Core Standards. That's an outline of what students should be taught in school to ensure they are ready for college and/or the workforce.

Katie Decker is principal of Walter Bracken STEAM academy. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. Twelve years ago, 5.6 percent of Bracken's students were proficient in math. Now, 91 percent of the school's students are excelling.

Decker says the success starts by first determining students' skill levels.

"We just really here make sure that every child is successful. We meet with the parents, if they're failing. We pull the parents in. We ask them, ‘Do you understand the homework?' We open our computer labs before and after school, and we have parents in there with their children doing homework with a support staff member who can coach and guide them to helping their child finish," said Decker.

Decker says parental involvement is crucial to a student's success. A volunteer coordinator at Bracken helps recruit parents to get involved in their child's progress and stay involved, which Decker says improves student performance.

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