America Has Talent: Leveraging Aptitudes to Build a Stronger Workforce

March 20, 2018

Takeaways

America may have a skills gap, but we don't have a talent gap. We must help students explore their aptitudes.

Despite historically low unemployment and a growing economy, hiring skilled workers remains a challenge in many of our nation’s key industries, such as manufacturing, construction, information technology, and healthcare.

But while America may have a skills gap, we do not have a talent gap. Young people across the country have the aptitudes and natural abilities to do the work that our economy requires. However, education and industry leaders must work together to more effectively help students uncover and leverage that talent for high-demand career opportunities.

For decades, our society has relied on a student’s self-reported interests as the primary career guidance method. The results of these outdated interest surveys hinge upon students’ familiarity with careers and work settings. However, very few students have the career exposure necessary to obtain reliable guidance from these surveys. This “exposure gap” is especially harmful to young women, minorities and low-income students who may have a constrained vision of opportunity. As a result, interest surveys can actually steer students away from the modern economy.

There is a better way. According to Dr. Rich Feller, Colorado State University professor and former president of the National Career Development Association, we can provide more meaningful career guidance to students through aptitude explorations: “Career science has improved. We can now use real performance measures of aptitudes and algorithms to improve the efficiency of counseling resources and make higher probability career recommendations. Aptitudes are a natural ability or a capacity for learning. For example, numerical reasoning is an aptitude. Accountancy is a skill.”

Helping students and young adults better understand how their unique aptitudes align with 21st century careers opens the door to a more meaningful discussion on talent. Too often, we measure students’ merit through academic measures, including the ACT, SAT or GPA – but every student has natural abilities that can add value to the workforce.

Recently, more than 8,000 Georgia high school students were given an aptitude exploration tool that revealed a much broader, more diverse talent pool. The tool identified sixty percent more students with high aptitudes for engineering and information technology careers.  It also found 200 percent more students had a high aptitude fit for manufacturing, construction and transportation careers.

Not only can aptitude assessments provide students with newfound confidence and faith in their ability to compete for in-demand jobs, they also can provide educators and employers with valuable tools to engage young people earlier in the talent pipeline. Educators can utilize aptitude measures to help students more proactively plan their education pathway and take advantage of career and technical education and dual degree programs. Employers can also collaborate with educators to more effectively connect with future job candidates through work/study programs, apprenticeships and internships.

We know America’s young people have talent. Now it’s time to embrace the tools necessary to more effectively discover and guide that emerging talent to high demand careers.