Four hundred companies recently provided insight into the current state of our knowledge-driven economy and the demands that market will place on our educational system in the future. The Society for Human Resource Management (www.shrm.org) teamed up with three other organizations to assess the growing skills gap among high school graduates, two-year college grads, and those people with four-year degrees.
The five most important skills identified for all three groups are professionalism, teamwork, oral communication, ethics and social responsibility, and reading comprehenson. One specific item caught my attention. Employers report that 69.6 percent of high school graduates lack critical thinking skills while the majority of these companies (over 70%) state that the demand for both critical thinking and creativity/innovataion will increase in the near future.
These numbers don't question the intelligence of the emerging workforce. These figures do raise serious concerns about whether or not the next generation of workers will have adequate training in processes that are fundamental to the success of any enterprise--the ability to spot a problem, knowing how to determine the cause of a problem, developing creative alternatives, making good decisions, and implementing change without creating other problems.
A lot of very bright men and women are entering the workforce, but intelligence cannot and will not compensate for not knowing how to think through a problem and develop a workable solution. That's what business is all about. Education is more than teaching a body of knowledge--it is equipping people for life. The ability to solve problems is basic to any endeavor. Maybe it's time to give critical thinking a more central place in our curriculums.