Skills and School: The Challenges Ahead

By September 13, 2006General

We’ve talked about the “skills gap” in Nebraska and Washington State over the last week. Add Wisconsin to the list of states where the lack of skilled employees is hampering economic growth. (Well, to be accurate, add the entire United States to the list.) The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports:

Scant supplies of certain high-demand skills are particularly glaring among Milwaukee-area manufacturers, said Jonas Prising, president of Manpower North America, based in Glendale.

“We have a skilled labor shortage that is quite significant,” Prising said. “Some vocational skills – welders, specialist machine operators – are in very high demand, and there is a tremendous shortage.”

The NAM is mindful, of course, that you cannot develop the technical skills needed to succeed in manufacturing without having the basic skills to function in life, the kind of skills traditionally represented by a high school degree. The latest OECD report buttresses this obvious point — it is obvious, isn’t it? — with country-by-country findings on the economic significance of graduating from high school.

From The Associated Press (hat tip to the Oregonian’s AtWork blog ):

Adults who don’t finish high school in the U.S. earn 65 percent of what people who have high school degrees make, according to a new report comparing industrialized nations. No other country had such a severe income gap.

Adults without a high school diploma typically make about 80 percent of the salaries earned by high school graduates in nations across Asia, Europe and elsewhere. Countries such as Finland, Belgium, Germany and Sweden have the smallest gaps in earnings between dropouts and graduates.

The figures come from “Education at a Glance,” an annual study by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The report, released Tuesday, aims to help leaders see how their nations stack up.

To end on a depressing note, consider this fact from the report:

When it comes to money, the nation remains a big spender.

From elementary school through college, the United States spends an average of $12,023 per student. That’s higher than in all countries in the comparison except for Switzerland.

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