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Employers Vexed Over Unprepared Grads

As high schools across the country churn out class after class of eager young minds, the nation's employers complain that too many are ill-prepared.

The incoming generation of workers lacks both academic and applied workplace skills, according to a survey of human resource officials conducted by Partnership for 21stCentury Skills and its collaborators.

“I think expectations are to get the students to pass,” said Rick Klimanowski, general manager of Pizza Hut in northern Washington. “I have a handful of high school students and people in their earlier 20s that I'm in charge of. For the most part, they all do their job, but very few go above and beyond.”

Klimanowski feels there is a sense of entitlement with his younger employees.

“I know it's only a part-time job for them while they're getting through school, but work ethic is not something that has been instilled in these kids,” he explained. “I've also noticed respect and attitude issues.”

Laura Finkeldey, co-owner of Bungalow Fitness in Houston, TX, said a lot of the problem is lack of professionalism. She feels that some younger workers don't know how to act in a work environment.

“I have fired many trainers because they could not fulfill the simple parts of their job requirements,” Finkeldey said. “Like being on time, late-canceling on their clients, calling in sick frequently.”

“One guy I had to let go because he yelled at me during a one-on-one meeting,” Finkeldey recalled. “He had recently started online grad school. So we adjusted his training schedule so he could have days off to work on his studies. He then continued to do his studies while he was at work, and he was not writing up workouts or keeping client folders up to date.”

Gregory Dell'omo, Ph.D., and President of Robert Morris University, wrote in an op-ed that appeared in the February 13 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that students need more practical workplace education at the middle and high school levels.

“There are between 20,000 and 40,000 jobs in the Pittsburgh region that are going unfilled at any one time, even during one of the worst job markets in our history, due to the mismatch between the education and training these jobs require and the skills of our local workforce,” Dell'omo wrote. “If all these positions were filled, the local unemployment rate would be approximate 4.7 percent, compared to the actual rate of 7.4 percent.”

Despite the startling statistics and horror stories from workplaces, Dell'omo thinks there are some progressive schools that are taking bold steps to combat the issue.

“One school district that gets it right is South Fayette [PA],” Dell'omo wrote. “Former Superintendent Linda Hippert integrated career education into the curriculum starting in the seventh grade, when students begin learning about 'career clusters' - in business, information, law and government; in science, technology, engineering and math; in arts and humanities; and in health and human services. All South Fayette High School students must complete an extensive career exploration project that includes independent research, job shadowing and work with a mentor, culminating with a formal presentation.”

Dell'omo said the goal of the South Fayette program is to get all graduating seniors to a place where they can articulate their career goals and their plans to achieve them. To help students meet this goal, South Fayette keeps a full-time workforce development expert on staff. The workforce expert helps put students together with local employers for mentoring.


Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
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