A new survey of employers on public education and workforce readiness found 75% of respondents are having trouble finding qualified candidates to fill open positions, up from 69% in 2013. The problem affected a wide range of positions across industries and across the state, particularly in central and western regions.
Business leaders also report serious deficiencies in new hires, ranging from higher-order skills like teamwork, critical thinking and communications to basic reading and math.
The survey confirms the conclusion MBAE drew in its 2014 report on education that unless we modernize our elementary and secondary education system, Massachusetts will not have the robust pipeline of skilled workers our knowledge economy demands and a growing number of students will be left on the economic sidelines.
“The widening skills gap and persistent achievement gaps continue to limit the prospects of too many students,” said Linda Noonan, Executive Director of MBAE. “There are no silver bullets – changes are needed throughout our education system to target resources, talent, and innovation to equitably educate every student for success.”
Despite giving elementary and secondary public schools relatively strong grades overall, employers continue to give the schools lower marks for preparing students for work. 72% agree the schools need change – nearly a quarter think the schools need a major overhaul, another 48% think they need to make moderate changes.
Improving the quality of teachers and imparting “applied skills” were the two most favored policies to improve education. Two-thirds of survey respondents said the business community should put “a great deal” of focus on improving these two areas.
82% think “using performance, rather than seniority, for personnel decisions” would be “very effective” in improving instruction. The next most favored intervention was improving teacher training and preparation (58%).
The ability to write clearly and critical thinking (both 79%) topped the list of skills that schools should focus on “a great deal”. Basic math skills came in third (70%), just ahead of oral and presentation skills and reading comprehension.
The survey was conducted by MassINC Polling Group and commissioned by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) with support from Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Business Roundtable. It was distributed by more than 40 business associations across the state to their members. The research was a follow-up to a similar project done in 2013.
Download PDF here