How can public education and job readiness shrink the skills gap?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The first installment in this three-part series, "Where Have All the Jobs Gone," addressed how more than five decades of structural changes in the U.S. economy has led to the anomalous circumstance of stubbornly high unemployment while an estimated four million jobs go begging. The second installment, "Why Is There a Disconnect Between Available Jobs and Qualified Employees," offered a closer look at the scope and extent of the current skills gap to help explain why so many currently available jobs will continue to remain unfilled. This third and final installment offers several short-term strategies to address the skills gap more quickly, as well as a long-term policy prescription to better align, in perpetuity, the foundational and workforce skills of public primary and secondary school graduates and the qualifications employers seek in the marketplace.

What role should K-12 public education play in the job readiness of its graduates? Answering this question first requires addressing the proper role of public education. Some believe in education for education's sake; that no further explanation is required. Others prefer simple yet more-expansive descriptions of the role of public education, such as "to give every child the opportunity to fully participate in society," "to create adults able to function and thrive" or simply "to serve as the great equalizer for all."

A more-detailed explanation, however, from the historical perspective of the U.S. system of public education, may be somewhat more instructive as a starting point for this third installment.

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