Big Trouble in the Talent Pipeline

data point tuesday_500

I’m not generally big on infographics.  I find them self-serving and hard to read and digest.  Here’s an exception.  It’s called Unprepared for College and was posted on the blog.

I’ve written about the non-performance of the U.S. education system in preparing our future workforce here and here.  This infographic puts the issues front and center.  I don’t see how we can continually turn away from this data.

  • Half of all college students drop out before receiving a degree
  • 1 in 4 college freshman don’t complete their 1st year
  • Over half-a- million college freshman drop out every year

But wait.  It gets worse:

  • 80% of college freshman say high school is too easy but
    • 5 out of 10 college freshman can’t find New York or Ohio on a map of the U.S.
    • 9 out of 10 can’t find Afghanistan on a map of Asia
    • 3 out of 10 can’t find China on a globe
    • 4 out of 10 can’t find Israel, Iraq or Saudi Arabia
    • 7 out of 10 can’t find North Korea

And worse:

College@Home High School Readiness Benchmarks

And then there’s this:

  • 4 out of 5 students currently pursuing a math or science degree feel that their K-12 education did not prepare them for college
  • 2.2 million college freshman are learning high school material in college
  • 80% of students in remedial classes in college had a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • 20% of freshman with a 4.0 high school GPA need remediation in math, English or both
  • And 8 out of 10 freshman believed they were ready for college when they graduated from high school

The bottom line?  Only 56% of students enrolled in a 4-year program receive a degree within 6 years.

So.  What are we doing about this?  Government can’t or won’t act.  We can blame teacher unions, local governments, state governments, the voting public, parents, the students themselves – but none of that helps solve the problem.

Seems to me that business in general – and HR specifically – needs to step up to the plate.  After all, we’re the ones most concerned with the unskilling of our populace.  We’re the ones who know the most about the kinds of skills we need today and the kinds of skills we’ll need tomorrow, and next month and in the years to come.  I think it’s up to us.  What do you think?


Filed under China Gorman, College Graduation Rates, Connecting Dots, Education Deficit, High School Graduation Rates, Jobs for America's Graduates, Post-secondary education, STEM, Talent pipeline

12 responses to “Big Trouble in the Talent Pipeline

  1. Pingback: Unemployment Is a Problem, But Youth Unemployment Is a Crisis

  2. Pingback: Youth Unemployment: A Growing Problem |

  3. Pingback: The Need to Improve College Readiness « Revolutionary Paideia

  4. Another view in support of your blog above:

    For every 100,000 students who entered 9th grade in 2012….
    …only 68% will graduate from high school in 2016.
    …only 40,000 will enter college in 2016.
    …only 18,000 will earn a 4-year degree by 2021 (5 years).
    …only 800 of those 18k degrees will be in engineering.
    …only 125 of the 800 engineering degrees will be mechanical engineers.
    …only 15 of the mechanical engineers will be women.
    …only 5 women mechanical engineers will remain working in their chosen profession in 2026.

    On an individual level, recruiters tasked with putting together a diverse slate of qualified mechanical engineers with 3-5 years experience would be unfazed. Myopically, they would simply ask themselves “when should I meet those five women in order to build the relationship that would ensure they were willing to consider the opening?”

    On a societal level the problems are more complex. Business leaders, nationalistic feelings aside, might find it hard not to invest in helping stable societies outside of north america strengthen their engineering programs to ensure a supply of talent that offers a higher yield for the money invested. Where those engineering jobs go, so go all the support jobs in manufacturing, accounting etc, as well as all the service jobs building the cars and houses for the engineers, pumping their gas and selling them goods at the local retail establishments.

    On a societal level, it would take the equivalent of our commitment to land a person on the moon to change the conversion rates noted above. Not likely happening in today’s politically divisive environment.

    On the other hand each of us as individuals and leaders in our respective businesses can also ask ourselves, “What are we personally doing and what is our company doing to change any of these conversion rates here…now to develop candidates to compete for our jobs…whether they be mechanical engineers, or nurses, or high school graduates.

    Employees at companies like Wegmans, mentoring at risk, inner-city students, improved 50% graduation rates to 95% (and eventually found a new supply of qualified applicants as well as a mission at work that lifted engagement of its workers). Wegmans isn’t alone. We need to loudly dig out and tell more of these stories to model for our businesses that investing early in supporting education in our community offers more long term options.

    This is Recruiting at a world-class level- transforming the supply chain.

    • Gerry: you and I are in complete agreement. Your stats about female engineers are staggering — and I’ve referred to them often. Getting involved with organizations like Jobs for America’s Graduates and others will go a long way. But the issue won’t go away unless we intentionally start doing things differently. Hope to see you soon.

      • Jim Holincheck

        For better or worse, I think it is changing. Challenges in the traditional approach to education is leading to opportunities for new ways of learning. MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) providers like Coursera, Udacity, and many others (not to mention Khan Academy) are seeing significant interest (see A single course on machine learning at Stamford (which led to the founding of Coursera — see attracted more than 100,000 enrollees around the world. So, I agree that there is a lot to be concerned about with the traditional U.S. education system. However, the options for the next generation of students are not likely to be limited to that system we grew up with.

      • Hi Jim! Lots of changes are coming to the post-secondary education world with MOOCs, competency based learning models, etc. And those might trickle down to the K-12 system, but I’m a little pessimistic on that score. Too many entrenched stakeholders: government and labor, to name two. I really believe that the biggest driver of change in the K-12 system will be business/employers.

      • Jim Holincheck

        I agree, but they are not mutually exclusive: MOOCs may be part of how businesses/employers fill the gaps. I also agree with you and Gerry that for hard to fill skills, employers will increasingly take it into their own hands to find and educate students at younger ages to create the talent pools they need. The Wegman’s example is a great one. It is a question of how and how they get students more engaged.

  5. Great article China and disturbing information. We’ve fallen very far behind Europe and Asia educationally. The last couple generations are learning things in very different ways. Unless our education system changes to meet this I fear the future will hold nothing but adversity for future leaders.

    • Hi Alex. Wow! How great to hear from you! Been a loooong time. This is the biggest issue facing our nation in terms of economic security, ability to compete globally and national security. We’ve got to get moving on this.

  6. I agree from specialist TVET, skills and workforce perspective (UK) and now in India. There are huge drives being launched globally, to firstly raise awareness of skills, workforce skills and the ‘skills gap’ and secondly significant investment in building country-specific workforce initiatives that addresses labour market intelligence, vocational education, NEETS, workforce planning, youth, national occupational standards … the technical list is long.

    What is absolutely paramount for the success and sustainability of such programmes is EMPLOYER OWNERSHIP. Employers inform the process of development for these national led workforce initiatives. What should follow is implementation and impact.

    Learning and development is not luxury – but essential for growth to any organisation and its biggest resource – PEOPLE.

    Making sure talent has ‘entry to employment’ is the most significant way an organisation can make sure they don’t have a skills deficit. The other is to ensure they progress through this talent pipeline, with assured and transparent HR processes (workforce planning, development and succession planning).

    The companies that survive and grow through economic crisis are the ones that invest in their workforce – including those that they need access to – to fill the gap and make sure the gap is sealed.

    If need be all organisations either need support to workforce plan effectively, and / or develop strategies in place to support organisational culture and processes that support life-long learning. It’s the only way to deal with skills crisis – making sure youth are employable – with secure and encouraging employability programmes.

    Employers need to engage – even if in partnership and collaboration with others in the sectors they serve – including education sector.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s