Young American workers today are more educated than ever before, but the nation’s largest generation is losing its edge against the least and most educated of other countries, according to a provocative new report.
The report’s authors warn these findings portend a growing gap between rich and poor American workers and that the lackluster results threaten U.S. competitiveness in an increasingly globalized market.
The report, produced by testing giant ETS, analyzes data collected by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). The assessment measures the literacy and arithmetic skills of workers ages 16 through 65 in the U.S. and in other wealthy countries. While the results of the PIAAC have been published before, the new ETS study offers new insight in that it compared U.S. millennials—those between the ages of 16 and 34—with their international colleagues in roughly two dozen countries. The analysis found that more than half of U.S. millennials lack proficiency when it comes to applying reading and math skills at the workplace.
"You’ve seen tons of school-reform efforts in the last 20 years that don’t seem to be able to make a dent. Well, maybe we need to reframe the problem in a larger way," Madeline Goodman, a co-author of the ETS report, said in a phone interview. "It’s a question of putting the problem of skills in a larger context of inequality and opportunity in America today."