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Young people entering the U.S. workforce lack critical skills essential for success, finds a survey released Oct. 2 by a consortium of business research organizations.

The consortium, made up of The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the Society for Human Resource Management, released a report filled with gloomy news about the readiness of the next-generation workforce, yet IT was called out as an adequately-prepared “bright spot” among high school graduates, who are considered critical for current and future workplace needs.

Though areas of teamwork and diversity were encouraging, most of the report brought sobering news about the generation poised to replace the retiring baby boomer workforce set.

Deemed sorely lacking in academic and applied skills, the report concluded that “the future is here, and it is ill-prepared.”

“This study should serve as an alert to educators, policymakers and those concerned with U.S. economic competitiveness that we may be facing a skills shortage,” said Susan R. Meisinger, President and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management in a statement.

“In a knowledge-based economy, a talented workforce with communication and critical thinking skills is necessary for organizations and the U.S. to be successful.”

Forty percent of survey participants said hired high school graduates lacked basic skills in reading comprehension, writing and math.

But, beyond the three fundamental “R’s”, employers cited applied skills such as teamwork, critical thinking and communication as essential for job success.

Seventy percent of respondents cited deficiencies among high school graduates in these areas, as well as in the demonstration of personal accountability and effective work habits, finding that many new recruits lacked work ethic and professionalism.

In response to these findings, 28 percent of employers projected that their companies will reduce hiring of new entrants with only a high school diploma over the next five years.

Nearly half (49.5 percent) of respondents said they would increase the percentages of two-year college graduates. Almost 60 percent said the same of four-year college graduates and 42 percent said their post-graduate hires would also increase.

Workers are dissatisfied with workplace communication. Click here to read more.

Writing skills were singled out by survey respondents as especially lacking, as 72 percent of incoming students were viewed as deficient in basic English writing skills, including grammar and spelling, especially when applied to written workplace communications such as memos and reports.

While 58 percent of responding employers said that critical thinking and problem-solving skills were very important, 70 percent rated recently-hired high school students deficient in these areas.

The growing frustration over the quality of entrants into the workforce is viewed as critical to the United States remaining globally competitive, Richard Cavanagh, President and CEO of The Conference Board, said.

“It is clear from the report that greater communication and collaboration between the business sector and educators is critical to ensure that young people are prepared to enter the workplace of the 21st century,” Cavanagh said.

“Less than intense preparation in critical skills can lead to unsuccessful futures for America’s youth, as well as a less competitive U.S. workforce. This ultimately makes the U.S. economy more vulnerable in the global marketplace.”

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