Policy & Research

How to Narrow the Skills Gap

A new report from the Nation School Boards Association looks into how school districts can help high school graduates close the skills gap.

The United States is facing a shortage of interested or qualified workers to fill job openings for the first time in decades, according to a new report from the National School Boards Association’s Commission to Close the Skills Gap. To address this shortage, the report lays out six LifeReady skills that all school districts should focus on to make their students ready for employment. The NSBA is also issuing lists of recommendations for industry engagement, policy and programming for school districts.

The six LifeReady skills are dependability and reliability, adaptability/trainability, critical thinking, decision-making, customer focus and teamwork. These skills were chosen by the Commission to Close the Skills Gap, which includes representatives from the American Hotel & Lodging Association, American Public Transportation Association, CompTIA and the National Retail Federation.

“School board members are in a unique position to take action.  And the business and trade association members on the commission are committed to working with us to ensure that all students can graduate with the skills they need to succeed no matter what life choices they make,” said NSBA executive director and CEO Thomas J. Gentzel.

When it comes to industry, the NSBA recommendations include establishing partnerships between school districts and the local and/or regional business community through creating a business advisory board position for each school board, seeking opportunities for school board members to participate in meetings with local chambers of commerce and industry trade associations, and identifying and designating a leader with the school district to act as a liaison with the business community.

For school boards, the report recommends the following:

  • Put equivalent focus on CTE/Career Readiness as College Readiness.
  • Consider an option for students to secure a “Job Ready” diploma. This diploma would be designed in concert with the business community in each local area that measures the six LifeReady skills.
  • Consider requiring each student have work-based learning as a condition for graduating high school. This could include internships, work study, externships, work-simulated projects, or part-time employment. Specific metrics would be applied, and students would be required to demonstrate mastery of critical LifeReady skills.
  • Create curriculum and school experience focused on the National Network’s Employability Skills.
  • Select entry-level, industry-based and locally relevant credentials to incorporate into the curriculum, either as an academic requirement or elective.

To improve the student experience, the report also makes several recommendation including communicating and promoting work experience as having similar benefits to extracurricular activities and sports, hosting annual career awareness events where young people can discuss and learn about the basic skills needed for success in college and/or careers, and holding events where students can tour regional or local businesses to obtain a better understanding of work environments available in their area.

The report can be found here.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe covering education policy and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

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