Pennsylvania Business Community Skeptical of High School Diploma's Guarantee of Job Readiness
Pennsylvania employers are concerned about the availability of qualified workers and show a good deal of skepticism that a high school diploma alone is a guarantee of a young person's preparedness to enter the workforce successfully, according to an independent poll conducted on behalf of one of the state's largest business advocacy groups. More than 80% -- four out of five -- business owners and senior managers surveyed believe that statewide education standards and uniform course-by-course final exams would have an impact on improving the quality of the workforce in Pennsylvania.
These are among the key findings of a survey of 400 Pennsylvania businesses conducted in early May by Susquehanna Polling & Research on behalf of the Pennsylvania Business Council Education Foundation.
"For many years, our organization and our members have been concerned about the quality of Pennsylvania's workforce and the availability of qualified, skilled workers for jobs in the global, information-based economy," reported David W. Patti, president and CEO of the Foundation's parent, Pennsylvania Business Council (PBC). "We've been engaged in several efforts to develop standards that span gubernatorial administrations. We have plenty of anecdotal evidence that employers have concerns. This poll was undertaken, in part, to quantify those concerns and help guide the dialog to craft a solution."
While more than 60% of the survey respondents rate the present quality of Pennsylvania's workforce as good or even excellent, very few think it has improved in recent years, according to the survey, and one-third think it has gotten worse. "Even more troubling," commented Patti, "is that only 7% of all of the business owners and managers surveyed say they are 'very confident' that high school students are graduating with the necessary knowledge and skills."
Patti said he has heard for many years that employers are re-teaching math and language arts skills to new hires, and his members are well aware that Pennsylvania's community colleges and four-year institutions are over-enrolled for their remedial classes. More than two-thirds of the poll respondents said they receive applications from job-seekers who lack the skills and/or knowledge necessary for the position and about half of the managers surveyed reported their companies lose significant or moderate amounts of productivity by having to train or retrain workers on basic skills.
The Pennsylvania State Board of Education has proposed a series of standardized final exams that would be administered at the end of each course of study in core subject areas, such as math, reading, writing, sciences and social studies. The exams would not be a one-time graduate/don't graduate exit exam, but a course-by-course assessment of whether a student has achieved competency in critical subject matter.