well in their companies. Such a system, he claims, would also motivate individual students to greater effort. Similar arguments are made in this volume.
Advocates of more efficient signaling systems note that employers today are not, for the most part, attending to evidence of the quality of high school performance. Such evidence is not easily available to employers, to be sure, but it is also true that employers rarely ask for it. When queried about why, many express distrust of high school records, claiming that grade inflation and the irrelevance of much that is taught in high school render the high school diploma of little value as a signal of a young person's competence in the workplace.
Some employers see little value in the high school record because they are looking for very little in the way of academic or technical preparation. They seek instead little more than regularity of attendance at work and willingness to carry out routine chores reliably and personably. These are mostly employers who offer little in the way of career prospects to young people. They are the kinds of jobs through which, according to Zemsky (Chapter 3, this volume), many young people churn between their late teens and mid-to-late twenties.
Another growing group of employers, however, complain that they need better prepared, more highly skilled workers and that there are good jobs with career prospects going unfilled because of a lack of adequately prepared young people (see also Chapter 2, this volume). They want some skills that have traditionally been the purview of the high schools and postsecondary vocational training system: knowledge of mathematics, science, communication, some specific technical skills. But they also want what Murnane and Levy (1996) call the new basics: the ''soft skills" of teamwork, resource management, and problem solving (see also Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, 1991 and New Standards, 1997).
The importance of these skills today derives from basic changes in the economy. The dramatic growth of communication and transportation capabilities over the past two or three decades has brought an end to isolated national and regional economies. All goods and many services can now be shipped anywhere in the world. At the same time, the productive capacities of Europe and Japan have recovered from their postwar incapacity and many formerly underdeveloped countries have become able to produce goods and services of a quality interesting to buyers in the more developed parts of the world (see also Baumol et al, 1991). The resulting international competition has increased the demand for highly reliable goods and services and for customization.
Not only can goods and services be shipped all over the world but so too can most jobs. There is far less advantage today than there used to be in producing goods close to buyers. Even many services can be provided long distance. For example, with the availability of reliable and speedy electronic networks, data-handling