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CHAPTER 2 17 What High School Graduates Need THE PANEL HAS ATTEMPTED TO PROJECT the future of the American job market to determine the sort of worker who will prosper in the future. It has asked its employer members to describe the em- ployees they will need, and be able to employ, in the years ahead. A single answer comes from both sources: a person who is able and willing to learn throughout a working lifetime. A person who knows how to learn is one well grounded in fundamental knowledge and who has mastered concepts and skills that create an intellectual framework to which new knowledge can be added. It is precisely in the basic intellectual skills, however, that young employees show the greatest deficiencies. Many lack the ability to draw correct inferences from written, pictorial, or mathematical information; to understand oral instructions; to develop alternatives and reach con- clusions; to express their ideas intelligibly and effectively; and to apply such basic concepts of economics as profit and cost.1 All of these skills are important, even in entry-level jobs. Advancement to more responsible posts requires skills of an even higher order, including the ability to compose tables and reports, to consult reference and source materials, to apply mathematical concepts and procedures, to control complex equip- ment, and to address groups. These conclusions derive from the panel's collective experience and from examinations by its members of their own industries. For example, representatives of leading banks and brokerage houses in New York City said they will need high school graduates with skills in reading, writing, mathematics, and oral expression at least as good as those of today's workers to fill entry-level jobs such as messenger, general office clerk,

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18 HIGH SCHOOLS AND THE CHANGING WORKPLACE and teller. Applicants for higher entry-level jobs such as secretary, adjuster, or clerical supervisor will need even better skills.2 The federal government has developed precise hiring standards for the hundreds of thousands of civilian high school graduates it employs in scores of white- and blue-collar occupations.3 Some federal jobs require no more than a high school diploma, but many demand specific technical skills or knowl- edge acquired through apprenticeship, technical training, or work expe- rience. Even these special skills, however, are built on a core of com- petencies that can be acquired in high school. For example: • Every federal employee, whether a laundry worker, personnel clerk, or technician, must be able to follow written and verbal instructions, keep accurate records, and convey information orally. • Workers as diverse as accounting clerks, upholsterers, and aircraft mechanics must be able to compute accurately to estimate costs, determine materials needed, and develop work plans. • Occupations as varied as dental hygienist or equipment repair tech- nician require familiarity with basic concepts of biology, chemistry, or physics. • Very disparate workers, such as nursing assistants, clock repairers, and surveying technicians, need to be familiar with equipment used in laboratory work. Beyond these specific skills, the panel agrees that young people need additional characteristics to succeed on the job: attitudes and under- standing that lead to good work habits and successful interpersonal relationships. A clear understanding of the rights and responsibilities of workers and employers, and of the place of each in American economic and social life, will help students to function effectively as workers and to exercise their rights as employees and citizens. Schools cannot meet the specific demands of every employer, of course. They cannot, for example, train students to fill out a particular organiza- tion's invoices or requisition slips or to follow its costing procedures. Yet, schools can, and must, teach students the basic skills that underlie these specific job requirements. A young person who can read skillfully and compute accurately will master quickly the versions of these skills required by a given employer. A young person who lacks the basic skills, however, probably cannot learn to fulfill an employer's expectations. (See Appendix B for a brief description of studies on the relation of cognitive skills to job performance.)

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WHAT HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES NEED 19 The panel has concluded, therefore, that the need for adaptability and lifelong learning dictates a set of core competencies that are critical to successful careers of high school graduates. These competencies include the ability to read, write, reason, and compute; an understanding of American social and economic life; a knowledge of the basic principles of the physical and biological sciences; experience with cooperation and conflict resolution in groups; and possession of attitudes and personal habits that make for a dependable, responsible, adaptable, and informed worker and citizen. Together, these competencies comprise what are needed to prepare a young person for an uncertain future. That these competencies form the basis of all high-quality education is not, in the panel's opinion, accidental. The panel believes that the educa- tion needed for the workplace does not differ in its essentials from that needed for college or advanced technical training. The central recom- mendation of this study is that all young Americans, regardless of their career goals, achieve mastery of this core of competencies up to their abilities. For those intending to enter the work force directly after completing high school, additional training in specific vocational skills will increase employability and is naturally desirable. But no other skills, however useful or worthwhile, can substitute for the core competencies.4 Young people not planning on going to college may not require ad- vanced or highly theoretical courses in mathematics, science, or other academic subjects, but they must have a working knowledge of these disciplines to permit them to perform job tasks accurately, correctly, and with understanding. The workplace ordinarily affords a narrow margin for error. Workers who misinterpret instructions might damage costly machinery or tools and endanger themselves and others. Workers unable to compute with precision might fill orders improperly, losing their employers the good will of customers, or miscalculate cost information, confusing their em- ployers' accounting systems and adding unnecessary costs. Mastery of the core competencies to the best of one's abilities is both a necessary and reasonable goal. What differentiates students who end their education upon completion of high school from those going to college is not necessarily the ability or desire to learn; frequently, the differences take the form of economic resources, social backgrounds, cultural exposure, life styles, aspirations, or values. These differences do not dictate any lowering of educational standards, but they may suggest some variation in educational settings or techniques. Some students

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20 HIGH SCHOOLS AND THE CHANGING WORKPLACE learn best in a scholastic environment; others in settings closer to "real life." Students not planning on postsecondary education, however, actually have less time to master the foundations of learning than those going on to college. The panel has not attempted to recommend specific routes to master- ing the core competencies; this lies properly in the realm of educators. The panel does urge in the strongest possible terms, however, that all educational programs be evaluated on the basis of their ability to provide the skills that all young people will need. The Core The core competencies judged by the panel to be required by employers Competencies and, by extension, for success in employment, are given below. The list is not exhaustive, but rather illustrative. Some of these skills, or similar concepts, have been advocated by others (see reference 1, for example); this report attempts to put them in one context. These competencies are transferable, vital to almost every job except the least skilled, and essential to upward mobility and adaptability. Command of the English Language The panel predicates this list of competencies on possession of the most basic skill of all—a command of the English language, which it believes to be essential for success and mobility in American society. Although a second language may be useful in job mobility, all American young people, regardless of their home or native tongue, need a functional command of standard English in its written and spoken forms. Reasoning and Problemsolving The capacity to reason and solve prob- lems is the central indication of an educated person. Throughout their working lives, individuals will encounter problems or situations with various possible solutions. The ability to understand the consequences of alternative courses of action is an essential condition for success in employment. Well-developed reasoning capacity requires a person to be able to: • Identify problems • Consider and evaluate possible alternative solutions, weighing their risks and benefits • Formulate and reach decisions logically

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WHAT HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES NEED 21 • Separate fact from opinion • Adjust to unanticipated situations by applying established rules and facts • Work out new ways of handling recurring problems • Determine what is needed to accomplish work assignments. Reading Each student needs to be able to read, comprehend, and in- terpret written materials. Job success often hinges on following written instructions, manuals, or labels. Workers must frequently use catalogs and reference books, read and draw inferences from correspondence and reports, and interpret correctly forms such as vouchers, requisitions, and work orders. Neither reading nor writing is taught separately in most high schools. However, every course in every academic subject can re- quire students to read and write critically and extensively. Competent reading requires the ability to: Understand the purpose of written material Note details and facts Identify and summarize principal and subsidiary ideas Be aware of inconsistency in written material Verify information and evaluate the worth and objectivity of sources Interpret quantitative information; for example, in tables, charts, and graphs. Writing It has been said that a person can write no better than he or she can think. All students need to be able to organize information and state it clearly and concisely in a written form that is grammatically correct. Employees in many lines of work are called upon to fill out forms, document experiences and procedures, record events, and present their ideas in memorandums, letters, and notes. Skillful writing requires the ability to: Gather information suitable for the purpose Organize information in a logical and coherent manner Use standard English syntax Apply the rules of correct spelling, punctuation, and capitalization Attribute references correctly Use reference books such as a dictionary, a thesaurus, and an encyclopedia Write legibly.

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22 HIGH SCHOOLS AND THE CHANGING WORKPLACE Computation All students need to be able to understand and apply basic mathematics, at least through elementary algebra. An under- standing of geometry and trigonometry is desirable. Countless work tasks require computations of cost, time, volume, area, percentage, frac- tional share, and other mathematical relationships. Precise computa- tion requires that a person be able to: • Add, subtract, multiply, and divide whole numbers, decimals, and fractions accurately Calculate distance, weight, area, volume, and time Convert from one measurement system to another, for example, from English to metric Determine the costs, time, or resources necessary for a task Calculate simple interest Compute costs and make change Understand simple probability and statistics Calculate using information obtained from charts, graphs, and tables • Use ratios, proportions, percentages, and algebraic equations with a single unknown • Estimate results and judge their accuracy. Science and Technology Whether employed in a factory, farm, office, shop, or retail store, American workers need to feel comfortable with technology. Many jobs, of course, demand specific understanding of the physical and biological sciences, including the practical experience developed in laboratory work. Technical occupations of all kinds—in the fast-growing medical and health service fields, in communications, and in the military services—call on workers to deal effectively with mechanical and elec- tronic equipment. As the use of advanced technologies becomes ever more pervasive in our economy, schools must encourage students of both sexes to acquire a firm grounding in science and technology. Lack of an adequate scientific background and technological experience has precluded many, especial- ly women, from competing for large numbers of desirable jobs in the past. High school graduates, therefore, need the confidence that they can understand how things work. Nothing builds this confidence so effective- ly as the study of specific technologies and the scientific principles

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23 High school graduates need the confidence that they can understand how things work. Nothing builds this confidence so effectively as the study of specific technologies and the scientific principles underlying them.

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24 HIGH SCHOOLS AND THE CHANGING WORKPLACE underlying them. While devices may consist of thousands of parts, indi- vidual parts are often simple, as are the rules for their interaction. Facility with technology comes from understanding these rules and in working with devices embodying them. That, the panel believes, is best achieved by combining classroom study with practical experience in school laboratories or outside school; for example, learning the principles of chemical combinations and performing simple chemical reactions; learning the basic electrical laws and operating a voltmeter; and study- ing the thermal properties of solids and examining the structure of an integrated circuit chip. Competency in science and technology includes the ability to apply the scientific method, whether or not it is labeled as such; that is, the ability to formulate and state hypotheses, and then to evaluate them by ex- perimentation or observation. That competency will serve all graduates, whether they work in technical occupations or not. It serves, for instance, in localizing a problem in a word-processing system, in repairing me- chanical systems, or in identifying the source of a recurring error in computation. Further, the well-educated high school graduate will be able to apply the basic principles of the physical, chemical, and biological sciences to work. Thus, high school graduates competent in the basic sciences will be able to evaluate risks better, understand the rationale for industrial processes, and even suggest how they might be improved. The particu- lars are less important than the generality: that knowledge of science and technology dissipates unknowns and enhances confidence in one's ability to analyze and solve a problem. Finally, education in science and technology should include acquain- tance with computers. That does not necessarily mean learning pro- gramming languages and the like, but it does mean acquiring knowledge of the basic functions of computers; knowing what they can and cannot do; some familiarity with the basic components of a computing system; and an understanding of the possibilities and limits of frequently used software packages such as word processors, data-base management sys- tems, and electronic spreadsheets. Oral Communication Success in any job requires, among other things, the aptitude to communicate thought, knowledge, and information through speech, whether with supervisors, coworkers, customers, or the general public. Competent oral communication includes the ability to:

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WHAT HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES NEED 25 Communicate in standard English Understand the intent and details of oral communications Understand and give instructions Identify and summarize correctly principal and subsidiary ideas in discussions Obtain, clarify, and verify information through questioning Participate effectively in discussions. Interpersonal Relationships Success in a career depends on the capac- ity to deal constructively and effectively with others. In turn, this de- pends on a knowledge of behavior appropriate to and customary in the workplace. Young people must understand that the standards of be- havior, speech, and dress expected of employees often differ markedly from those acceptable in student circles. They also must realize that conflicting interests and opinions are inherent in many social interac- tions, but that such conflicts can and should be resolved through con- structive means. Finally, they must recognize that employers cannot tolerate behavior, even if innocently intended, that offends customers, colleagues, other employees, or members of the general public. Effective interpersonal relations require the ability to: Interact in a socially appropriate manner Demonstrate respect for the opinions, customs, and individual dif- ferences of others Appreciate the importance and value of humor Offer and accept criticism constructively Handle conflict maturely Participate in reaching group decisions. Social and Economic Studies Understanding how employees and em- ployers fit into the economic structure of the community and country is essential to an appreciation of one's own contributions and responsibili- ties. Young people should realize that private employers purchase serv- ices in order to provide a product or service at a profit so that they can stay in business, while public employers must adhere to rules of public accountability. Only employees who contribute to these goals are likely to keep their jobs or advance in them. Students can gain this understand- ing best through a knowledge of how the American society and economy function, how various groups and interests interact, and what they can

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26 HIGH SCHOOLS AND THE CHANGING WORKPLACE expect of one another. Adequate social and economic knowledge requires an understanding of: • The history of present-day American society • The political, economic, and social systems of the United States and other countries • The fundamentals of economics, including a basic understanding of the roles of money, capital investment, product pricing, cost, profit, and productivity, and market forces such as supply and demand • The concept of "trade-offs" and the differences between economic principles, facts, and value judgments • The roles of industry and labor in creating wealth, maintaining employment, and raising the standard of living • The forms and functions of local, state, and federal governments • The rights and responsibilities of citizens • Civil rights and justice in a free society. Personal Work Habits and Attitudes Personal work habits indicate the level of responsibility one is capable of assuming. Positive habits and attitudes contribute significantly to success in performing tasks, dealing with others, and gaining employment. They are also vital to success in school and should be cultivated long before a student enters the work force.5 Constructive work habits and attitudes require: A realistic positive attitude toward one's self A positive attitude toward work and pride in accomplishment A willingness to learn Self-discipline, including regular and punctual attendance and de- pendability The ability to set goals and allocate time to achieve them The capacity to accept responsibility The ability to work with or without supervision Appropriate dress and grooming An understanding of the need for organization, supervision, rules, policies, and procedures Freedom from substance abuse Appropriate personal hygiene. The panel emphasizes again that these competencies are goals, by no means universally achievable to the same level by all, but nevertheless

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WHAT HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES NEED 27 important for all to strive toward. The panel also emphasizes that they are incomplete goals, limited to those believed necessary for preparing high school graduates for satisfying careers. These goals must be sup- plemented by others if high school graduates are to participate fully in the cultural and civic life of this country. 1 See, for example, Colorado Department of Education, op. cit., p. 2.; Center for Public Resources, op. cit.; Leonard Lund and E. Patrick McGuire, op. cit. 2 Report submitted to the panel by panel member Frederick A. Roesch (available from the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy). 3 Report submitted to the panel by panel member Loretta Cornelius (available from the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy). 4 For a state perspective, see Wellford W. Wilms, "The Limited Utility of Vocational Education: California Employers' Views," Public Affairs Report, Vol. 24, No. 14, August 1983. 5 Employee attitudes and their relation to job performance will be treated in a forthcoming report by the Committee for Economic Development, Business and the Schools: Identification of Employer Needs, to be published in the fall of 1984.

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