Education and Employment

Many have believed for nearly a century that education leads to a good employment.

As working-class children began to fill the schools in the early 1900s, public policy debates focused on how to provide these students with a useful education. Thus was laid the groundwork for contemporary vocational education and the perceived relationship between education and employment.

Does More Education Always Lead To A Better Job?

There is a solid body of practical work supporting the view that educational level is strongly related to occupational attainment. Similarly, research on type of education (i.e., vocational, college prep) shows some of the expected relationships to employment, wages, and so forth.

What Skills And Attitudes Do Future Workers Need To Learn?

  • Basic Skills

All research agrees on the importance of basic skills for employability and productivity. However, there is also wide agreement that many American youth are deficient in these necessary skills.

  • General Employability Skills

Work habits, attitudes, and interpersonal skills are generally considered important to job success, in fact, as important as basic skills.

  • Transferable Skills

A transferable skill is one that is applicable to more than one situation. All skills are transferable, but some are certainly more useful in that they are applicable to a wider variety of situations. Sjogren (1977) suggests that there are five basic groups of highly transferable skills including mathematics skills, communication skills, interpersonal skills, reasoning skills, and manipulative skills.

  • Transfer Skills

Transfer skills are cognitive functions that facilitate the transfer of learned skills from one setting to the next. They include such abilities as cue recognition, discrimination, association, and rule application. According to Fitzgerald (1985), transfer skills are generally not taught in the schools, but they should be.

Where And How Should Work Skills Be Taught?

Utilizing surveys of the general public, teachers, students, and employers, the National Center study asked about the source of learning for four competency skill groups: traditional job values and expectations, job advancement and promotion, taking charge, and finding one’s place. All surveyed groups believed that all these competencies were learned on the job, although they did not agree that this should necessarily be so. Fitzgerald (1985) comments on the problem this finding creates, particularly for minority youth who cannot get hired because they lack employability skills and do not learn employability skills until they have a job.

Students said they learned responsibility at home, at work, and at school, in that order. However, they felt they behaved most responsibly at work and least responsibly at school.

The common thread running through the research indicates that the workplace is the site of most learning concerning work. The implication is that since traditional classroom instruction has not produced the desired outcomes, alternatives should be considered. Fitzgerald (1985) suggests the possibility of using experience-based career education as one such alternative. This method is possibly more effective because of its close ties to the workplace and its emphasis on the “real world.” Fitzgerald calls for more research in this area to multiply and improve the alternatives.

What Are The Implications For Practice?

Although it has been noted that a good education and a good job do not necessarily go hand-in-hand, certainly the schools can make improvements that will increase the student’s employability opportunities. The first priority, the experts agree, is to make the student proficient at basic skills. For the young person of today, that means not only literacy and computation, but also basic computer literacy.

Next, general employability skills must be taught thoughtfully, both through words and actions. The teacher who is habitually late to class is teaching students that punctuality is not important. If students are to learn responsibility, it must be given to them in gradual and increasing amounts at home and at school. Getting along with others and working with others may be best taught by including group assignments in the curriculum.

Transfer skills are widely untaught in the current public education system. Research needs to be done that will show teachers how to teach transfer skills so that future workers will not see their skills as irrelevant, past accomplishments but rather as tools for the future.

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