U.S. Students Struggle with Skills Gap

The weekly journal Science features on its new cover a Babylonian tablet that calculates Jupiter’s movement through the sky. The archaeological find pushes the discovery of a rudimentary calculus back at least 1,400 years, from 14th century Europe.

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Advisers to Babylonian kings were recording two facts–the passage of time and Jupiter’s velocity–to project where the giant gas orb might pop up next. A more sophisticated version of the same analysis, painfully known to many as integral calculus, lets you look a year ahead from today’s stock price and come up with the value of options.

But 2,000 years later, that kind of math remains far out of reach for many students in the developed world. In the U.S., the question is particularly acute. American students rank 35 among the 64 nations in the most recent international testing, well below the average for developed nations. And this week the news got worse, as three quite different voices expressed concern with the failure of educational systems to keep up with a dynamic economy that requires ever smarter participants.

The UN Global Compact, a group that encourages companies to pursue sustainability across governance, social, and environmental issues, published a report Tuesday that ranks the biggest worries of more than 5,500 leaders in business, universities, and civil society groups. Two of the top three were how to close the skills gap and groom people for the ‘digital labor market.’

Yesterday’s graduates went off and founded today’s companies; it’s becoming clear that tomorrow’s graduates may not be qualified to even apply for jobs with them.

“The redesign of work is happening at such rapid speed that to adjust skills at the same pace requires an extraordinary ability to learn how to learn,” said Marianne Haahr, the report’s project director, who works for the Scandinavian think tank Monday Morning.

Read more at Bloomberg Business.