Nation’s CEOs: Skills gap is real and costly. Students today must have STEM fluency.

A new survey of CEOs of major U.S. corporations released today reveals deep concerns over lagging U.S. science and math skills. Nearly 98 percent  of the CEOs reported the skills gap hurts their business.

kidsonpencilsIn the CEO survey by Change the Equation and the Business Roundtable, business leaders described a costly shortage of workers skilled in science, technology, engineering and math.

To mark the release of the survey, four CEOs participated in a panel where they shared their perspectives and experiences.

Eric Spiegel, president & CEO of Siemens Corporation, talked about the recent challenges in staffing a new gas turbine plant in Charlotte, a city chosen because of its manufacturing history. Yet, Spiegel said finding a thousand qualified workers to staff the new facility was difficult.

Siemens received 10,000 applications and considered 6,000 of them, said Spiegel. Applicants were given tests in math, reading and basic technology.

Only a third passed, he said.

That third still required training, but no area community colleges were teaching the advanced manufacturing skills essential to running plants that rely on automation, robotics and software, said Spiegel.

Siemens sent local North Carolina professors to Germany to learn advanced manufacturing and machine tooling and then created training programs in Charlotte community colleges.

Spiegel said his company is now developing the apprenticeship programs standard in Germany where students train and work while still in high school.

Even though the jobs pay more than $50,000 a year, Spiegel said parents and schools in Charlotte were leery initially of manufacturing for their students. Siemens had to explain these jobs promised secure futures and good incomes, he said.

Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., said his company employs thousands of IT staffers and math and science Ph.Ds. “We have more programmers than Google, I’m told,” said Dimon. “Even our tellers in our branches — we have 15,000 tellers — need basic math.”

The skills gap is not just about math and science, said Maggie Wilderotter, chairman and CEO of Frontier Communications. “It’s about what it takes to work in the workforce. We also have to train all employees coming out of education system about what it is like to work in a company and responsibilities that come with that. And in basic literacy.”

The CEOs endorsed the Common Core State Standards as a vital step in the effort to improve the academic skills of American students.

“We are big advocates of Common Core, ” said Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation. Citing the political strife around Common Core, Tillerson said it’s fine if school districts and states want to rebrand the standards as a compromise gesture, but there must be shared standards and assessments so student performance can be judged across states.

Tillerson said the U.S. Department of Education has a responsibility to promote national standards, while states have the responsibility to design a curriculum to deliver those standards.

The political battle over Common Core frustrated Tillerson.  “It is utterly disappointing for me to see the political debate about something so important,” he said.

Among other findings in the survey:

  • CEOs say the skills gap is real and hurts business. Nearly 98 percent of CEOs say that the skills gap is a problem for their companies.
  • Most open jobs require STEM knowledge and skills. Approximately 60 percent of job openings require basic STEM literacy and 42 percent require advanced STEM knowledge. Nearly two-thirds of job openings that require STEM skills are in manufacturing and other services.
  • The biggest skills gaps are in advanced computer and quantitative knowledge. 62 percent of CEOs report problems finding qualified applicants for jobs requiring advanced computer/IT knowledge, and 41 percent report problems for jobs requiring advanced quantitative knowledge.
  • Many job candidates lack basic STEM skills. 38 percent of respondents say that at least half of their entry-level applicants lack basic STEM literacy. 28 percent say that at least half of their new entry-level hires lack basic STEM literacy.
  • STEM skills are a ticket to jobs. Over the next five years, employers expect to replace nearly a million employees needing basic STEM literacy and more than 600,000 employees needing advanced STEM knowledge.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

41 comments
AugustineBeary
AugustineBeary

In Illinois our high schools still require 4 full years of gym class.  Our kids don't have enough room in their schedules to take the courses they need for college prep.  The gym teachers have a strong union in Illinois

jerryeads
jerryeads

Let's take a long view.

1. Since the formation of the country, we have radically increased the voter franchise from the male landed gentry to all the citizenry. With that comes the difficulty in getting people to vote and, more importantly, to have a clue what they're voting about.

2. Since the formation of the country, we have increased school attendance and graduation from a very tiny few to something over 60% (the guesses vary greatly as to what that percentage actually is).

3. Although we've learned that people can greatly enhance their capacities through effort (i.e., "intelligence" is not fixed), it's still the case that capacity runs the gamut from barely functional to genius. Some people will progress faster and farther than others. That's just the way it is, and it's why minimum standards are good for auto assembly lines but not for people.

4. The quality of schooling varies as much as human capacity - and that goes for all the silver bullet fixes that the naïve wish for. Private schools and charters vary in quality every bit as much as public schools.

5. We as a citizenry tend to elect representatives who reflect the capacities of those who elect them - that is to say, some are more capable than others - - - -.

6. The citizenry and their representatives have chosen to consider teachers as lower than one of the bigots posting here considers third world immigrants, and schools as ghetto housing. As is well publicized, our state government has stolen many billions of dollars from the schools in recent years, reducing the teacher staffing from close to 120,000 to something like 113,000, and those remaining getting pay cuts as much as 22% through furloughs - while their students suffered the same reductions in school days in classes that increased from the low 20's to as high as the 40's.

7. Business leaders sparked the initiation of the possibility for some semblance of common preparedness of students across the country, only to be rejected by a small group of people (who our education system obviously failed). Thankfully at least in this state the Board of Ed sided with progress rather than the dark ages - although it remains to be seen whether that will help move the state from the bottom of the pile.

So, where's that leave us? Depends on whether our elected leaders can rise above the reactionary selfishness of today's voting majority to actually support (put their money where their mouth is) American schooling so that we get a better educated citizenry who will both think and vote. (I know, I know - such a dreamer I am.) Does it take only money? Of course not. But if we want better teachers to better teach better students, we might want to consider making it worth their while to teach.

popacorn
popacorn

It's all the boy's fault. 

Tcope
Tcope

There are plenty of Americans with the skills these companies are looking for. What is not mentioned is the idea that these companies don't want to pay high enough wages to recruit these people away from their current jobs. Why do you think that tech companies recruit Indians in such large numbers to work in the USA? They will do the same job for less pay. The government has set up a Visa program so that tech companies don't have to pay market level wages to native born Americans.

straker
straker

dontsterotype


All the desire and hard work in the world means little or nothing if you don't have the TALENT.


Some day it may by you'll learn this.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

So, they gave a test to 6000 applicants and only 2000 passed.  It would be interesting to know the demographics of those who passed / failed.  I've got a pretty good idea......

And yet, Washington still wants to allow more third worlders to invade this country.  Priceless....

dontstereotypemeyo
dontstereotypemeyo

@Lee_CPA2


Of course, attitudes like yours prevent what is necessary for people of ALL demographics to become skilled and educated. You are so terrified that increases in education spending will be wasted on blacks and Hispanics that outcomes for working class and poor whites are terrible also.


Seriously, go get a map. You will see that the educational outcomes in areas of Georgia mostly populated by lower income rural whites (many of whom are on food stamps, MediCaid and other forms of public assistance and most of whom vote Republican without the slightest hint of self-irony) are worse than those of APS, DeKalb and Clayton and far worse than MAJORITY MINORITY Gwinnett County public schools. By keeping everyone else down, you are only keeping your own people down.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Lee_CPA2  Why would we care about the demographics?  What I would like to know is what school did they graduate from?

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@class80olddog

Because the demographics would follow a predictable pattern.  You can't have a "STEM career ready" applicant from a pool of candidates with an IQ of 85.  You want an electronics technician, an electrician, an instrument & controls technician, or any of the other technical skills positions, you need to find someone with an IQ of 100+.

DeaconBlues
DeaconBlues

CEOs ought to start rethinking apprenticeships and guilds if they are truly concerned about finding enough people to fill their bill.  It is the job of a school to provide an education, and not to train someone for a job. 

dontstereotypemeyo
dontstereotypemeyo

@DeaconBlues


Or CEOs will simply locate their operations in areas that actually educate their students instead of contriving excuses for not doing so. 

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

Only 1 problem with this survey.    The CEOs seemed to have forgotten a letter.  The letter "a".  It's "STEAM" not "STEM" that is to be taught in our schools!

straker
straker

It seems that more and more jobs are requiring a scarce skill set that will not increase in the general population.


No solution to this.

dontstereotypemeyo
dontstereotypemeyo

@straker


The solution to this has already been found.


A. We went from an agricultural economy to a manufacturing economy that required more skilled workers.

B. We went from a manufacturing economy to a service/tech economy that required more skilled workers.


Another thing: lots of states have more skilled workers than Georgia does. You folks are just falling back on the old Jim Crow nonsense as an excuse not to try. 

dontstereotypemeyo
dontstereotypemeyo

@OldPhysicsTeacher @straker


It occurred in an even smaller set of the population 50, 30, and 15 years ago. What happened? Serious efforts to teach algebra and similar to more than just a tiny subset of the population. Answer: if you TRY to teach more people, then you will REACH more people. If you TRY to teach fewer people, you will REACH fewer. 

OldPhysicsTeacher
OldPhysicsTeacher

@straker Wow!!  A kindred soul. The skill set that's valued here only occurs in a small section of the population.  We might as well be saying the average pay of NFL football players is in the millions.  Why don't we prepare ALL of our students to be NFL stars?  It's really tough to do things for EVERYONE when half of our population is below average.

Caius
Caius

It is tough to teach STEM when there are few qualified teachers of STEM available.


US corporations have a problem creating facilities in the US. Lack of an educated workforce is just one.  There is a reason US corporations need to bring in foreign workers.

High US corporate taxes is another.  

The need to provide health care for employees is another; in most off the world the government provides health care or it is not provided at all.


Payroll in the US is just part of the equation.



DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@Caius  "There is a reason US corporations need to bring in foreign workers."


Pray tell, PLEASE explain WHAT that reason is. Lower cost? What else. Please be specific, otherwise this is just more empty (false) rhetoric.

NWGAMathScience
NWGAMathScience

@Caius Plenty of qualified folks.  We're just walking away because the system is too broken.  Is Ga-Tech having trouble finding folks to teach the much more advanced stuff?  I doubt it.  But then, they don't have as much of this problem as the educrats have created in public schools.  I hear it's starting to creep in with higher ed, but we've got such a head start on them.  Our hand-basket definitely gets there first!

AugustineBeary
AugustineBeary

@Caius Also US corporations don't invest at all in training a US work force like they did before.  They want all their workers already trained, and they can get this by hiring foreign skilled workers on a VISA

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

The domestic skills gap is pure BS propaganda promoted by CEO's, excusing their reluctance to invest in training and compensation and security of their employees. Sure, they want the Government to pay for it or to import experienced workers. Yes, the marketplace and our laws work against US workers and our inherent freedoms in this regard, whereas other countries are much more socialistic or abusive of the labor force.


I've been around a long time now, been uneducated and educated to advanced degrees. Corporations are always, inherently, legitimately, looking for ways to improve productivity and control or reduce labor costs. I've lived through most of the excuses posed by people in high places for massive outsourcing and leveraging of offshore skilled labor. In some limited ways there were legitimate interests and benefits. In most cases involving skilled labor these efforts have led to colossal failure, massive waste of scarce resources, and/or significant unfulfilled goals and expectations.


Companies want someone else to invest in training of their employees. For ANY investment, personal or public, there needs to exist the prospect of realizing a fair return on that investment. Why should a community or State (taxpayers) invest in training its citizens if there is no commitment from a corporation to employ those citizens? Conversely, why should a Corporation invest in training employees if those employees are free to sell their enhanced skills elsewhere, including to the competition? Why would an individual invest in a potentially dead-end education? Now THERE'S a question a lot of college kids and their parents should be asking. For everyone, if you possess the prerequisite basic education and the desire to work hard and focus your continuing education to the benefit of your potential employer do not be afraid to bang on the doors of Corporate America. Get out there in the market, pay your dues, and demonstrate you deserve an opportunity to prove yourself. American citizens are NOT second class. We are FIRST CLASS.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@DawgDadII  Companies should NOT have to teach high school graduates how to read, write and do simple arithmetic.  That is the job of the educational system.  Unfortunately, that system has not been doing its job for several years now.

bu2
bu2

@DawgDadII 

I'm inclined to agree with you.  If you look at unemployment among IT professionals and the way many of them are treated (forced to go on extended contract-not that some don't like that), its about not wanting to pay more.  They want to bring in foreigners who will work for less.


Companies want entry level employees ready to go and you really don't have that coming out of college.  Never have.

popacorn
popacorn

Math takes work. Math takes brains. Oh well. 

EdumacateThat
EdumacateThat

I'm sure I'll get plenty of hate-mail for saying this, but I think the IDEA of Common Core has merit.  I moved 15 times in my army-brat childhood and I often found I was either ahead or behind in one subject or another, depending upon the state we moved to.  I definitely think a common system of some sort would be helpful.

That said, what I do find humorous in this article is the thought of a majority of students' attaining "STEM fluency."  Shoot.  New New Math BS is still raging throughout the K-12 system.  Most of these kids will never come near mastery of the basics.  I believe we need to focus more on the foundation and then try to jazz it up with the "why this is important" speeches.

I am also concerned about the CC math standards as I heard one of the main players in the discussion, Dr. James Milgram, refused to sign the final product.  I'm still looking into those standards and also uncovering who else may have a problem with them.  This, I am doing to satisfy my own curiosity as to me... the standards are only a baseline; my kids receive traditional math enrichment at home.

EdumacateThat
EdumacateThat

@class80olddog @EdumacateThat I totally agree with what you said.  I have not witnessed too much social promotion myself, but I do know it has occurred and the resulting frustration is detrimental to all, not just the kid who was promoted when s/he shouldn't have been.  My two eldest kids do peer tutoring on a regular basis.  They have mentioned that the current class material is beyond some of the people they tutor b/c they never fully grasped the basics.  Very demoralizing situation for those kids.

In the case of my three children, I want to stress how much RESISTANCE we received when first exploring grade acceleration.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if the schools would increase their resistance regarding social promotion?  It boggles my mind how much they fight against a kid moving up when ready b/c they stress social soft skills, yet use that same social argument to argue against keeping a kid back when not academically ready.  Either you're in the business of education or you're not.  P.S.  All three of mine are doing well academically AND socially... and my eldest will graduate in May in the Top 1% of his class.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@EdumacateThat @class80olddog  What you experience and social promotion are the two parts of the same argument.  The "social argument" is that all students in a particular grade should be the same age - you cannot retain kids and you cannot accelerate kids - even if it does tremendous damage to their education.  Teachers have been brainwashed with this philosophy since the seventies.

EdumacateThat
EdumacateThat

@class80olddog @EdumacateThat You and I know that it is total BS for the vast majority of kids.  Students should be placed with their academic cohorts.  Look at HS, where some classes have three grades represented.  What bunk!

class80olddog
class80olddog

@EdumacateThat @class80olddog  You and I and a lot of the public may agree that it is bunk - but the educational SYSTEM (from the college professors on down) do NOT agree.  They will say that the social aspects of school are much more important than learning any academics.  SELF_ESTEEM is what they want to impart.  Everyone gets a trophy.  Maureen did a post a while back about going to an "at-risk" school.  She said everyone she met was excited and positive and upbeat - but they did not have a clue about things they were supposed to know on their grade level - examples of writing that were posted were abominable.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@EdumacateThat  I agree that the idea of CC and standardization of core subject matter nationally has merit.  My problem is that we are substituting one unenforced standard for another unenforced standard ( and paying a lot to do it).  Nothing is going to get any better.  What good is having a standard that says 3rd graders should be able to do multiplication, if a student is socially promoted to the fourth grade (5th, 6th, 7th, 8th) even though he doesn't know multiplication?

NWGAMathScience
NWGAMathScience

Implementation means solving the admin problem.  As long as administrators continue to bully any teacher that tries to hold students to an objective standard - well, then those standards don't exist except on paper.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@NWGAMathScience  You are absolutely 100% correct in this assessment.  That is why I have always been down on administrators more than teachers.  Teachers don't want to socially promote kids (well, maybe) - but it is usually the administrator, sometimes aided by the parent.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Solution - you can implement CC if you want - but more importantly, you have to ENFORCE it!  That means some objective measure of competence (that leaves out teachers' grades).  Then refuse diplomas to those who do not pass.  Of course, graduation rates in certain areas will fall into the teens...

class80olddog
class80olddog

What I am hearing is that they took average high school graduates and tested them for basic skills and two-thirds flunked.  No surprise there.  So what does Georgia do - gets rid of its high school graduation test!

bu2
bu2

@class80olddog 

North Carolina has terrible public schools.  That's part of the problem.

Intteach
Intteach

This was quite revealing. If international companies know that they will have problems staffing their plants due to lack of training of the workforce they might think twice about relocating or investing into the U.S. It sure would make it much easier if they could rely on a level of education/training across the nation. TCSG needs to get their act together and work with local businesses. If SC can increase apprenticeship programs into the tens of thousands then we should be able to pull off the same here in GA.

EdUktr
EdUktr

So without Common Core, all learning in mathematics and science has come to a halt. Classrooms across the state are mere waiting rooms where hours pass silently and without purpose.

Is that what you're saying, Maureen?