Hoppy Kercheval: US Millennials don’t measure up

Millennials (those born between 1980 and the early 2000s) must have the technical skills necessary for the workforce, right? After all, they are the most tech-centric generation.

A Gallup poll last year found that of young Americans (18-29 years of age), 88 percent have a smart phone, 83 percent have wireless Internet in their home, 79 percent have a laptop computer and 64 percent have a video game system.

But do they really have the expertise needed in an increasingly complex workplace? A new report suggests young Americans are way behind their counterparts in other countries.

The findings are contained in test data from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) administrated by the Princeton-based Educational Testing Service (ETS). Here are some of the low-lights.

--U.S. millennials scored lower than 15 of the 22 participating countries in literacy.

--Young adults in this country ranked last, along with Italy and Spain, in numeracy—the ability to comprehend basic math concepts.

--Our smartest millennials—those at or above the 90th percentile—scored lower than top-scoring millennials in 15 of the 22 participating countries.

--Although more young people in this country are graduating high school and getting post-secondary education, their math proficiency compared with the rest of participating countries is declining.

The best trained millennials are coming from Japan, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway. Madeline Goodman, one of the researchers who worked on the study, was stunned by the poor showing by the U.S.

“We really thought (U.S.) millennials would do better than the general adult population, either compared to older co-workers in the U.S. or to the same age group in other countries,” she told Fortune magazine. “But they didn’t. In fact, their scores were abysmal.”

Too many of our millennials can successfully maneuver “Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor” on their PS4, but cannot calculate the interest rate on a loan. Their “workday math,” as Goodman calls it, just isn’t strong enough for today’s technology-based jobs.

Goodman’s PIAAC report concluded, “As a country, we need to confront not only how we can compete in a global economy, but also what kind of future we can construct when a sizable segment of our future workforce is not equipped with the skills necessary for higher-level employment and meaningful participation in our democratic institutions.”

America continues to be the world’s greatest economic engine because of our political stability, economic freedom and abundant natural resources.

However, as the PIAAC report shows, we cannot rest on our past accomplishments, especially when other industrialized countries are educating workers whose skills surpass ours.

Kercheval is host of Talkline, broadcast statewide by the MetroNews Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon weekdays. Listen locally on WCHS 580 AM.

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