In these uncertain times, organizations are increasingly focused on improving productivity and efficiency and on protecting the bottom line. Yet these efforts may be in vain, as a new study shows today’s young workers are overwhelmingly unprepared to enter the workforce — likely draining precious time and resources from learning organizations.
According to the report, which was conducted in late 2008 by a partnership of professional organizations, about half of the more than 200 companies surveyed provide readiness or remedial training for new hires, but the majority are not very satisfied with the results. Further, substantial gaps in readiness training were identified in the areas of critical thinking and creativity.
“It raises real questions around the cost to business and the economy generally that we have an underprepared workforce,” said Elyse Rosenblum, vice president of workforce readiness research and policy at Corporate Voices for Working Families, one of the organizations involved in the study.
Rosenblum said part of the problem is that when it comes to assigning responsibility for pre-employment readiness, most organizations point outward — to the education system at large.
“[There’s] very little ownership within the business community — understandably. They see their job as training around job-specific skills and career advancement but not getting [people] ready for work,” she said. “[But] given they’re doing this and they’re not very satisfied with it, and [considering] the pretty serious focus right now around efficiency of hiring, it brings into focus the need for employers to redouble their efforts to be more strategic and aligned in the education space.”
Another issue at play here is that learning leaders may not have been able to make the case for investing in workforce readiness training. Rosenblum hopes this research will change that.
“When we were doing the research and we spoke with some of the senior training people and chief learning officers, they agree that it’s important to track those investments, but the case hasn’t successfully been made within the broader business community that this is something worth investing in,” she said. “I think this research really suggests that it may be, in fact, more efficient and effective to target your workforce training efforts at the pre-employment part of the talent pipeline, and then you won’t have to spend so much effort once they show up.”
To that end, Rosenblum said she and her colleagues have several recommendations for learning leaders. First, companies should consider instituting comprehensive internship and job shadowing programs to get potential new hires up to speed early on. They also might want to partner with local nonprofit youth organizations, many of which offer apprenticeship programs.
“We think another role for business is to be very clear about what they need so that those outside organizations — be they education systems or nonprofits — are training to the things that the business actually needs,” Rosenblum said.
Finally, learning organizations might want to explore partnerships with community colleges.
“The thing that really jumped out when we went to do case studies [was when] we asked a very open-ended question — ‘Can you talk about any innovations that you have developed in your company to do workforce readiness training in a way that really meets your business needs?’ — and many companies, a significant majority, talked about partnerships with community colleges,” Rosenblum said.