One trend that all HR departments should pay attention to is that of graduation rates of high school seniors. After all that is where our future employees are coming from. Having this kind of information will allow you to anticipate shortages or shortfalls in education. This will allow you to build plans for dealing with the levels of education needed in your organization.
According to a June 2013 article in The Atlantic the U.S. experienced the highest graduation rate in 40 years in 2010. As an overall trend that is good news in a time where many entry level jobs require at a minimum a high school education or even more. The news was mixed however, depending on what segment of the population you looked at in the report.
The author, Emily Richmond, looked at a group that I thought should be of particular interest to HR managers. This is the 16 to 21 age group. These students are the next wave of workers coming into our work places. She found there are 27 million people in this group. Twenty million of them are still in school, either high school or higher education. 5.1 million of them have graduated but have not gone on to higher ed and another 1.8 million did not graduate. Of this last group 1.2 million are unemployed. Given the necessity of education in order to be successful in the workplace of today, that should not be a surprise.
Efforts to recover students
Richmond quotes people in the field about how important an education is to quality of life. She quotes Christopher Swanson, vice president of Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit publisher of Ed Week, “The personal stakes for someone who doesn’t at least finish their high school education are dire, It’s difficult to bring people back to school after they’ve dropped out especially if they’re way behind and there are other demands on them that pull them away. But it’s so important for what they’re able to do with their lives after that.” Richmond reports that there is a movement to try to improve this loss of potential talent. She says “It appear that groundswell is building into momentum on several fronts, and the next step – for educators, policymakers, community groups, families, and the students themselves – will be to sustain it.”
The place of business
One of the groups left out of her list is businesses. I feel businesses, since they will provide the opportunities for those young adults, should have a say in what is happening in education. In addition to helping schools determine skill sets that will be important, they potentially can provide some of the badly needed resources to help sustain efforts of improvement.
Businesses have two choices
In the future businesses may be left with two choices when it comes to the segment of jobs these young people may fill. First businesses can step up and provide training necessary to make these people functional in the workplace. This may require a coordinated effort with education to make sure these drop outs have basic skills, such as reading and math, while the businesses over the specific job skills training needed to actually do the work.
The second choice will be to totally eliminate the human labor component of many jobs and automate the work to the point there will be no need to worry about these young people and their lack of skills.
From a futures point of view, either can work, depending on circumstances. The role of the practical HR futurist is to track the trends in education as it applies to their geography and make a decision on which direction their company needs to take.
Are you up to the challenge?