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Mind the Skills Gap

By Mary Shumway
State Director of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
Utah State Office of Education

You may have heard the phrase, “mind the gap,” a warning to passengers on the London Underground to be cautious as they cross from the station platform into the train.  Equally deserving of careful attention is the skills gap. It seems that there is a constant stream of articles, studies, and statements by people on all sides of this global issue, alerting us to a dim future should we fail to mind the skills gap.  For example, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development reported that adults (ages 16-65) in the U. S. have poor literacy and numeracy skills, despite relatively high educational attainment (OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills). The assessment looked at the cognitive and workplace skills needed to succeed in today’s global economy. A related report focusing on the United States (Survey of Adult Skills, First Results: United States) indicates that there are few signs of improvement. The average basic skills of young adults are not very different from older persons – and basic skills are not only related to employment outcomes, but also to personal and social well-being!

The report reveals much to be concerned about, but an additional report based on the findings, Time for the U.S. to Reskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says, lays out policy recommendations to address those concerns. Recommendation 4, in particular, is worth highlighting here:

Link efforts to improve basic skills to employability, recognizing that good jobs open up further learning options, while basic skills can often be more readily acquired in practical contexts.

This is Career and Technical Education! Participating in Career and Technical Education increases the opportunities you have of succeeding in college, career and life. Utah students have the chance to jumpstart their careers by completing a CTE Pathway, which includes Work-Based Learning, being a member of a Student Leadership Organization, and achieving Skills Certificates. Completing a Pathway will help you mind the skills gap!

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