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A new report based on data collected from approximately 4 million people who were examined for workplace readiness found there are significant skills gaps among those needing low or high levels of education.
By contrast, the report by ACT of Iowa City found those preparing for jobs that require middle-level education exhibited no significant skills gaps.
ACT said the findings of "The Condition of Work Readiness in the United States" suggest that institutions and programs preparing individuals for middle-education jobs - those requiring at least one but less than four years of formal training beyond high school - are well aligned with the skills those jobs demand.
Conversely, those preparing individuals for high- and low-education jobs are less aligned with the skills required for those jobs. The occupation categories include those projected to be in demand, growing and high paying.
Jon Whitmore, ACT chief executive officer, said skills gaps are not limited to students who are headed from high school to college.
"Our (WorkKeys) data show that far too many individuals in the United States are not ready to succeed in jobs that are projected to be in demand over the next decade," Whitmore said. "If our nation does not make changes in how workplace skills are developed, assessed and documented, it will become increasingly difficult for the United States to compete in the global marketplace."
WorkKeys assessments measure real world skills that employers believe are critical to job success.
The ACT report cautions that relying on indirect measures of skills, such as education level attained, will produce inaccurate results of actual workplace skills preparation. Rather, demonstration of actual workplace skills is a more accurate way to determine work readiness.
The ACT report recommends specific measures to increase workplace readiness. They include:
* Adopting strategies within education and workforce development systems to help individuals identify and address skills gaps relative to their career goals.
* Improving collaboration among educators, employers and industry leaders to develop realistic learning experiences from grade school, high school, post-secondary and career education.
* Improving alignment between education and workforce development efforts at the local, state and regional levels.
The latest report, released Monday, is ACT's third in a series analyzing the role of skills in today's job market and the growing importance skill levels play in predicting workplace success.