In an economy where people are the key drivers of productivity, ideas and innovation, our nation is facing one of the most severe skills gaps in its history. The US unemployment rate exceeds that of other advanced countries, and the trend for our young people and long term economic prospects is alarming. Unemployment for 16-24 year olds is higher than at any time in the past 63 years. And, despite 14 million people looking for work nationally, businesses are struggling to find the skilled workers to fill three million job vacancies. In Massachusetts alone, there are 120,000 unfilled jobs. There is a pressing and ever-growing need for the program of study for all students to deliver not only a top-notch academic experience, but a strong career readiness component as well.
The future of our state’s economy will be significantly impacted by our ability to improve the career readiness of our students and to develop a more highly educated and skilled workforce. The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is to be commended for taking on this issue of career readiness. Though Massachusetts’s students lead the nation in performance, the Board recognized that we continue to graduate too many students who lack the requisite preparation to be successful in both college and careers.
Last fall the Board established the Integrating College and Career Readiness Task Force to study this issue in depth and prepare recommendations for the BESE to ensure all students graduate not only college ready – but career ready as well. Over the last four months, we have joined with our peers from the business sector and the leaders in education, government, and workforce development throughout the state to align around this cause and ensure we are preparing students for productive lives beyond high school.
There are tangible benefits to companies investing in the next generation of skilled, talented, employees. We see the return on these investments in both of our organizations – from better prepared and engaged employees to reductions in turnover. Furthermore, we know that the advantages to students who develop career readiness knowledge and skills not only support their long term career success but also directly prepare them for post-secondary education. From the outset, the task force has been predicated on the belief that continuing to maintain high academic standards while integrating career readiness education into our program of study is the key to long term societal and economic success.
It is imperative that we rise to the challenge of addressing this skills gap and better prepare young adults for success in post-secondary education and viable career pathways. It has been an honor to serve with our peers on this task force and we believe that the results of this work will create lasting change in the educational success of our students and the economic viability of our state.
Gary L. Gottlieb is president and CEO of Partners HealthCare. Jay L. Hooley is chairman, president and CEO of State Street Corp. They are members of the Integrating College and Career Readiness Task Force.