Is there a "skills gap" that's hurting U.S. manufacturing? This is an issue that's been on the agenda of many in the plastics industry for as long as I can remember. Sometimes other more pressing problems push it to the back burner. But when you talk to company managers, you can always spark a conversation by asking whether schools are doing an adequate job preparing young people for the workplace. Recently, a group called the National Assessment Governing Board put out two reports as part of the Nation's Report Card project, which measures the results of our education system. The National Association of Manufacturers, a Washington-based trade group, took a look at the report and warned that "current achievement scores are disheartening, and act as further evidence of the increasing need to reform our high schools to get the job done. NAM President John Engler said:
We need young people who can adapt to the changing, high-tech workplace. In a modern facility, employees are more likely to be calibrating with a computer than pounding with a hammer. However, the skills needed to compete in a 21st Century workforce are just those that our graduates are having the hardest time achieving – math, reading and science.Engler's biggest concerns: the average 12th grade reading score was the lowest since 1992, and less than 25 percent of 12th-graders scored at or above the proficient level in math.