The low level of education among young Americans has been well-documented (see “Smartest Kids in the World Review”), but what happens when uneducated American young people go through college and enter the workforce? The “International Assessment for Adult Competency” data show our rank against international peers: “Americans Rank Last in Problem-Solving With Technology: New report finds U.S. workers lag behind other industrial countries in using digital skills for tasks” (WSJ). Some samples:
A new report finds U.S. workers rank dead last among 18 industrial countries when it comes to “problem solving in technology-rich environments,” or using digital technology to evaluate information and perform practical tasks.
“When you look at this data it suggests the trends we’ve discerned over the last 20 years are continuing and if anything they are gaining momentum,” said Joseph Fuller, a Harvard Business School professor who studies competitiveness. … The countries that scored the highest on the problem-solving with technology criteria were Japan, Finland, Sweden and Norway. Poland scored second to last, just above the U.S.
One stark revelation is that about four-fifths of unemployed Americans cannot figure out a rudimentary problem in which they have to spot an error when data is transferred from a two-column spreadsheet to a bar graph. And Americans are far less adept at dealing with numbers than the average of their global peers.
Data on 16- to 34-year-olds, for instance, found even workers with college degrees and graduate or professional degrees don’t stack up favorably against their international peers with similar education levels.
That a growing percentage of U.S. workers are incompetent is consistent with declining labor force participation compared to other countries (WSJ). It is also consistent with industry expanding at a higher rate in other countries where, even if the average worker is not necessarily better educated than his or her U.S. counterpart, wages and taxes are lower. So at least we can say that we are seeing the global labor market functioning in a manner consistent with Econ 101.
[Update: A few hours after this posting went live, we stopped to have an airplane refueled at one of America’s larger airports and higher-grade FBOs (ramp cluttered with $10 million bizjets and a Boeing 737 for a sports team). Here’s a photo of the right wing taken during the final preflight inspection:
When we got to our destination we rented a car. Here’s how the previous renters had the audio system set up…
I can’t figure out if the typical audio system setup in a rental car is more or less interesting than the fact that Uber drivers seem unable to find and/or use the “Auto” climate control setting.]