K-12 Education Reforms Not Working, Manufacturers Say

K-12 Education Reforms Not Working, Manufacturers Say
January 1, 2006

George A. Clowes

George Clowes is a Heartland senior fellow addressing education policy. He served as founding... (read full bio)

Despite educational reforms implemented over the past eight years, students graduating from public schools are still largely unprepared for the workforce, according to the latest annual employer survey published in November 2005 by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the Manufacturing Institute, and Deloitte Consulting LLP.

In the "2005 Skills Gap Report," manufacturers expressed significant dissatisfaction with the quality of K-12 education. An overwhelming majority of respondents--84 percent--said K-12 schools are not doing a good job of preparing students for the workplace, up from 81 percent in 1997. The top three items cited by employers as evidence of unpreparedness were:

  • lack of basic employability skills, such as attendance, timeliness, and work ethic (cited by 55 percent);
  • deficiencies in math and science abilities (51 percent); and
  • deficiencies in reading ability and comprehension (38 percent).

"The survey exposes a widening gap between the dwindling supply of skilled workers in America and the growing technical demands of the modern manufacturing workplace," said NAM President John Engler in a statement accompanying the survey. "If manufacturers are to remain competitive, the issues of education and training reform must be given at least as much attention as other top business concerns like trade, taxes, energy, and regulatory reform."

Calling for government to partner with business to improve the K-12 education system, the report warns that jobs and industries will move to other countries if manufacturers cannot find the skilled people they need in the United States.

-- George A. Clowes


For more information ...

To read the November 22, 2005 report, "2005 Skills Gap Report A Survey of the American Manufacturing Workforce," visit the National Association of Manufacturers Web site at http://www.nam.org/2005skillsgap.

Details of the National Assessment of Educational Progress's 2003 Trial Urban District Assessment for reading are available online at http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/reading/results2003/districtresults.asp.

George A. Clowes

George Clowes is a Heartland senior fellow addressing education policy. He served as founding... (read full bio)