U.S. Millennials Lagging Behind?


America’s Millennials are on track to be the most-educated generation ever, based on the amount of time they’ve spent in school. A recession that reduced the number of high school grads tempted away by good jobs, a generation of manufacturing offshored, and a generation-wide delay in moving out of parents’ homes has extended the college time for the upcoming generation.

But a test given in 23 countries (in Asia, Europe, North America, and Australia) shows that time in college isn’t adding up to preparation for the world of work.


The PIAAC, or Survey of Adult Skills, checks on “literacy and numeracy skills and the ability to solve problems in technology-rich environments.”

Sample questions included a sample job search web page with basic comprehension questions, comparing raw data and graphs created with the data, and simple online tasks such as navigating an e-commerce website.

American Millennials were near the bottom of scores in math, literacy, and tech problem solving. Countries like Estonia, Finland, and the Slovak Republic beat U.S. scores for this age group.

Researchers tried sorting the test group by race, parents’ educational levels, and other demographics, and were unable to get the U.S. into the “average” range for any grouping.


Here are some possibilities:

  • Get industry more involved. Rexroth is active with high schools and colleges, and more companies should make that effort.
  • Help students become more aware of tech careers. Career day still tends to focus on doctors and lawyers, but there are plenty of interesting new jobs out there.
  • Tech training for teachers might be key. If teachers aren’t very good at STEM, students won’t be either.
  • Bring technology into the classroom in more realistic ways. Many classrooms still forbid students to use smartphones in class, and classroom use of the internet is often limited to looking up facts or using classroom-specific software.

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