We Need to Boost Adult Educational Skills

According to a new OECD report, the United States is failing to ensure that adults are keeping pace with the increasing need for the basic and advanced skills that today's middle-class jobs require.

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An educated workforce is one of the bedrocks of not only the American middle class but also the U.S. economy as a whole. Our economy is the most productive in the world because of the investments workers make in their own skills and civil society makes in education. However, a new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education, finds that we are failing to ensure that adults keep pace with the increasing need for basic and advanced skills that today’s middle-class jobs demand. The report’s findings suggest that other nations are doing a better job of equipping all citizens with the skills to be productive, while the United States has stagnated. In order to address these challenges, the report provides policy recommendations to improve our nation’s performance, a few of which we highlight here.

The report’s primary recommendations are to improve basic skills, literacy, numeracy, and problem solving, as well as tackle inequalities affecting particular subpopulations in the United States, which have broad implications for American families and the economy. From a competitiveness point of view, the need to invest in our human capital is urgent. While other countries have made gains in education, the United States has stagnated and is therefore falling behind many other OECD countries. Increasingly, younger Americans find themselves at a skills deficit relative to their counterparts in other countries, and U.S. businesses have more difficulty finding the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy. The result is fewer high-quality jobs created in the United States. The OECD report calls on the United States to act boldly and to address these challenges through “concerted action.”’

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