As the United States economy continues to struggle with high unemployment and the effects of the severe recession, American workers and employers agree that new workers are not prepared to enter the workforce. And addressing these workforce readiness gaps will be critical to our nation’s long-term economic recovery.

Moreover, both groups believe that the education sector has the primary responsibility to close the workforce readiness gap. In that regard, the perspective shared by Corporate Voices for Working Families is that it is essential for business leaders, policy makers and educators to work together to address the workforce readiness gap.

Research Summary

American workers say that employees hired into entry-level jobs at their workplace are not prepared – and the skills that are most important for success in the workplace of the 21st-century are communication, professionalism and problem solving.

Those are the key results of a national survey of 525 working Americans conducted in December 2009 by Public Policy Polling for Corporate Voices for Working Families.

And the views of American workers mirror those of more than 400 employers across the United States as reported in the landmark 2006 research study, Are They Really Ready to Work? The full report and an executive summary, along with a host of other workforce readiness policy and background information, are available at the Corporate Voices for Working Families Web site.

Are They Really Ready to Work?, conducted by Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Conference Board, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management, spotlighted employers’ concerns about the lack of preparedness of new entrants into the workforce regardless of the level of educational attainment. In addition, employers reported that new entrants to the workforce need basic skills – reading, writing and math – but must also have a wide range of applied skills such as professionalism, teamwork and oral communication.

In both studies, workers and employers agree that it is the primary responsibility of educators to ensure that new employees are prepared to enter the workforce.

Summary of Key Findings of Employee Survey

  • When asked how they would rate the preparation of recent students or graduates for an entry-level job in their workplace, American workers said not very prepared (37 percent), somewhat prepared (34 percent) and very prepared (14 percent).
  • When given the choices of professionalism, communication, problem solving, working in teams, reading comprehension and math/science, employees rated the most important skill set necessary to succeed in their workplace as communication (29 percent), problem solving (27 percent), professionalism (20 percent), working in teams (11 percent), reading comprehension in English (9 percent) and math/science (5 percent).

  • Given the changes ahead in our economy, survey respondents said that the skills most important for new entrants to possess in their workplace were are follows: understanding the role of business in the global economy (27 percent), having entrepreneurial skills (18 percent), making important choices concerning health and wellness (16 percent), participating in the community as an informed citizen (16 percent), exercising personal financial responsibility (15 percent) and speaking a foreign language (8 percent).

  • When asked where the primary responsibility rests for ensuring new employees are prepared to enter the workforce, the workers surveyed said educators (72 percent), followed by employers (21 percent) and government (8 percent).

Public Policy Polling conducted the telephone survey of 525 working Americans December 4-7, 2009. It has a margin of error of +/- 4.3 percent. Employees participating in the survey represent a cross-section of industry groups as well as education and government.

Publications, research studies, and toolkits on a host of workforce readiness, flexibility, family economic stability, and work and family balance issues are available on the Corporate Voices Web site.