U.S. and Foreign Strategies for Preparing Noncollege Youth for Employment

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-06-14.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                  United   States General       Accounting    Office

For Release        U.S.     and    Foreign       Strategies
on Delivery        For     Preparing         Noncollege
Expected    at
1:00 p.m. EST      Youth     For    Employment
June 14, 1990

                    Statement  of
                    Franklin  Frazier,    Director
                    Education  and Employment                 Issues
                    Human Resources    Division

                    Before   the
                    Subcommittee    on Education               and     Health
                    Joint  Economic   Committee

                                                                                GAO Form 160 (12/X’)

The United States has a worldwide                reputation        for providing      its
young people extensive           opportunity       to attend college.           But it
falls    short in employment preparation                 of many noncollege        youth.
Many children        are not ready for school entry or fall                   behind in
school and are not adequately               helped to catch up.            High school
students      receive    little   orientation        to job requirements          or
opportunities,        and little     assistence        in making an effective
transition       from school to work.           After      leaving    school,   government
training      programs reach only modest proportions                   of needy youth;
private     training    programs also have shortcomings.
The foreign   countries     we reviewed--England,       West Germany, Japan,
and Sweden--have     national    policies   aimed at developing     a well-
qualified   noncollege     work force.     Specific   practices  vary by
country   and often entail      problems of their     own, but the following
approaches   shared by some or all of the four countries           may hold
promise for improving       U.S. education     and training:
       --    Foreign      school officials   expect all students    to do well,
             particularly       in the early years.    A notable  practice   in
             Japan and Sweden is to allocate        comparable   resources  to
             all schools.
       --    Schools and employers        systematically     guide youth in
             their   transition      from school to work.       Almost all
             Japanese high school students           obtain  jobs through school
             recommendations       to employers.       Most West German
             noncollege      youth enter an apprenticeship        program.
       --    Germany and England develop competency-based    national
             training standards  and certify skill  competency.
       --    Large proportions       of jobless  out-of-school    youth receive
             assistance.      England guarantees     work experience    and
             training    to all such 16- and 17-year-olds.         In Sweden,
             the guarantee     applies    to all teenagers.
Recognizing       that there are always limitations       on how readily
practices     can be transferred,     and that significant     change may
require     additional     resources,  the following   warrant
consideration        by the U.S. federal,    state and local governments:
       --    Strengthen    the commitment to have all children       attain
             the academic skills      necessary  to perform effectively                  in
             postsecondary    education    or the workplace.
        --   Develop closer    school-employer      linkages, particularly                to
             expand apprenticeship-type        programs and to help youth
             obtain  suitable   entry employment.
        --   Encourage development         of skill     training     standards     and
             competency certification.
Mr. Chairman      and Members of the         Subcommittee:
I am pleased to be here today to share with you the results                         of
GAO's study,       completed     and released       last month, on employment
preparation       of noncollege      youth in the United States and four
foreign     countries--England,         Federal     Republic     of Germany, Japan,
and Sweden.1         Together with the House Education              and Labor
Committee,      you had requested        that GAO review the education            and
training     strategies      of the United States and several              economic
competitor      nations     to identify     foreign     practices     that may hold
promise of improving          the education       and training      of noncollege
youth in the United States.
For our study,       we reviewed     literature      on the U.S. and foreign
training    strategies,      consulted      with experts,    and spoke with
knowledgeable      people in the foreign          countries.    We focus on U.S.
weaknesses and foreign         strengths.        Doing so is not intended    to
denigrate     U.S. strengths      nor to imply that foreign        systems are
trouble   free.

The United States has a worldwide                reputation       for providing     its
youth extensive          opportunity    to attend      college.       However, our
country     falls     short in significant         respects     in employment
preparation        of many noncollege        youth, most notably          in equipping
them with necessary           literacy    skills     and providing      them an
effective       transition       from school to work.
A great deal of attention               is being paid to the need for
improving     U.S. education          and training,       particularly    as a means of
maintaining      international          competitiveness.          Your subcommittee's
previous     hearings       have pointed      to the concern that young workers'
deficiencies       in academic and job skills               impede our nation's
economic growth,          productivity,       and ability       to compete with other
advanced high-skill            nations.     Similar      concern marks reports        by
the Departments         of Labor, Education,           and Commerce, the
Massachusetts        Institute       of Technology,       the Hudson Institute,        and
the William      T. Grant Foundation,2             to name only a few.

1Training  Strategies:  Preparing              Noncollege Youth        for Employment
in the U.S. and Foreign Countries               (GAO/HRD-90-88,        May 1990).
2Commission on Workforce         Quality   and Labor Market Efficiency.
Investing     in People: A Strategy      to Address America's        Workforce
Crisis.     U.S. Department      of Labor, 1989;     Dertouzos,      Michael,
Richard Lester,       Robert Solow, and the MIT Commission on
Industrial      Productivity.     Made In America:     Regaining     the
Productive      Edge.     The MIT Press, 1989;     Johnston,    William,      and
Arnold Packer.        Workforce    2000: Work and Workers for the Twenty-
first    Century.     Hudson Institute,     June 1987;     U.S. Congress,
Joint    Economic Committee.        "The Education   Deficit,"       A Report
Employers      largely     agree that entry level workers should read at
least at the eighth           grade level.        But some 20 percent       of young
American adults        function      below that level.          Employers point out,
too,    that the increasing          technological       content   of many entry jobs
requires     11th or 12th grade reading              and computation     skills.      GAO
projects     that by the time          they reach age 25, about nine million
of the nation's        33 million        youth now aged 16 to 24 will            not have
the skills       needed to meet employer           requirements      for entry
positions--      5.5 million      dropouts     and 3.8 million      high school
graduates      who lack high school competency.
Many students      do poorly

Many children,         primarily        from low-income       families,    are not ready
for school entry OK fall               behind in school and are not adequately
helped to catch up.              Significant      investment      is being made in Head
Start    for comprehensive           educational,       social,     and other services
to poor 3 to 5 year olds, as well as in Chapter I programs for
remedial     instruction         primarily     in the elementary         school grades.
But the magnitude          of the problem is such that these programs fall
short of reaching          the bulk of children            in need.      The early   lags
in basic academic skills               hamper progress        throughout     the school
years and in subsequent              work life.
Schools    not   linked   to   labor   market

About half of U.S. youth go on to college            after   high school.
However, many of the other half receive           inadequate      preparation
for employment.     Many high school students           are not made aware of
work requirements     or opportunities:        Nor do they see the
relevance   of schooling     to work, and, therefore,        are not motivated
to do well in school.        How the departing      student   proceeds      in the
labor market is regarded as the responsibility              of the student        or
of his or her family.        Few institutional      bridges    are available       to
help noncollege    youth make the transition          from school to work.
Left to themselves,      large numbers of high school graduates               and

Summarizing    the Hearings       on "Competitiveness      and the Quality      of
the American Workforce,"          December 14, 1988;. U.S. Department           of
Labor.    Employment and Training         Administration.        Work-Based
Learning:   Training    America's     Workers,     1989;   U.S. Oepartment      of
Labor, U.S. Department         of Education,      and U.S. Department      of
Commerce, A Joint     Initiative.        "Building     A Quality   Workforce,"
JULY 1988;     The William      T. Grant Foundation.        The Forgotten      Half:
Non-College    Youth in America,       Interim     Report.     Commission on
Work, Family and Citizenship,          January,     1988.

dropouts   flounder    in the labor           market,    jobless   or obtaining   jobs
that do little      to improve their           skills    for future   employment.
Limited         post-secondary     traininq

After     leaving      school,    "second chance" programs,               such as the Job
Training      Partnership       Act, reach only modest proportions                 of youth
needing employment and training                 assistance.         We cannot quantify
the numbers precisely,             but JTPA, the largest             second chance
program,      trains      less than 10 percent         of needy youth.          For those
who participate,            the programs tend to devote limited                attention    to
literacy      skills,       and the job skill       training       they provide       is
generally       quite brief       (usually    less than 4-l/2          months).      Other
noncollege        training     also has shortcomings.              Thus, proprietary
schools with appreciable               public   funding     enroll      large numbers of
young people,          but the training       in many schools           is not effective.
Apprenticeship           programs generally        are of high quality,           but serve
relatively        few youth.

The four countries           we reviewed--England,        Federal Republic         of
Germany, Japan, and Sweden--have               national    policies     to develop a
well-qualified          noncollege     youth work force.        These policies        are
based on the conviction             that such a work force is vital           for
national       economic growth and international            competitive      ability.
Specific       practices     vary by country,       are rooted in different
traditions,        and may be accompanied         by problems of their        own.
Still,      the following       approaches    shared by some or all of the four
countries       may be relevant        for the United States:

          (1)    We observed that educators    expect all students   to do
                 well in school,  particularly    in the early school years.
                 Some U.S. schools often accept that many students      will
                 lag behind.
          (2)    Schools and employers   working together guide the
                 transition  from school to work to a greater  degree                  than
                 in the United States.
          (3)    Competency-based    national   training     standards    are
                 developed   and used to certify       skill  competency.     In the
                 United States,   certificates      for trainees     often certify
                 only program completion.

          (4)    The foreign      governments    invest    extensively      in most
                 jobless    out-of-school     youth,    offering     remedial
                 education,     training,    or job placement.         U.S. employment
                 and training       programs are available        to relatively     few

Emphasis on all youth doing well in school.                     In these foreign
countries,     school officials          generally     try to give all young
people an even start.          Notable practices            are to avoid grouping
youth by ability      in the early grades,             devote special      attention      to
students    with learning      difficulties,          pay teachers    relatively
well,    and allocate   comparable          resources     to all schools.
Japanese educators    have high expectations                for all students.            They
assume that all youth who try hard enough                   can achieve,      and thus
encourage  student   effort    and perseverence.                Further,    each student
is led to value achievement         of the entire           class,     thereby helping
assure that classmates      do not lag behind.                Such attitudes        likely
contribute   to a low variation       in Japanese           students'      generally
high test scores.     The   variation     in scores           is far less among
Japanese than U.S. students.
In Japan, teachers      have high status     and respect.    Most come from
the top third    of college   graduates.     Their beginning   salaries  are
higher  than those of engineers.         In  West   Germany, secondary
teacher   salary   scales are similar      to those of judges and doctors
employed by the government.        Teaching     in the United States does
not enjoy the same status       and salary    treatment.
Practices      of the foreign       countries      emphasize providing       equal
educational       opportunity      to all youth regardless         of differences        in
socioeconomic        status    and academic talent.         Japan provides        uniform
teacher     salaries      and per capita      school funding;      so that poorer
areas are on par with affluent               ones.    Sweden provides       extra
resources      to needy schools such as those in remote rural                    areas or
in areas with proportionately              more immigrant      youth.     In the
United States,         local   annual per student       funding    ranges from about
$2,000 to $6,000.            And teacher     salaries   vary widely     by state and
local area.
Assistance    in transition     from school to work.            The foreign
countries   try to smooth the transition             from school to work for
noncollege    youth by providing       students      with occupational
information     and guidance while in school,             combining   schooling
with work experience        and on-the-job      training,      and offering     job
placement   assistance.       Employers play a significant            role in this
transition    into employment.
Following  are examples of how foreign                 countries     prepare    and
guide youth into the work force:
       --   In 1983, English            schools reformed      their    curriculum    to
            provide     orientation         to the world of work and structured
            work experience           to all secondary      school students.         Also,
            special     teachers        work with "careers       officers"      from the
            public    employment         service  to provide       youth with job
            information       and     placement   assistance.

             In west Germany, the school-employer               link    involves       an
             extensive     apprenticeship,       which guides almost all non-
             college-bound      youth from school to employment.                  Youth
             begin apprenticeships          at age 15 or 16 and the training
             usually    lasts   three years.       The young people typically
             spend one to two days a week studying                vocational         and
             academic subjects        in state-run     vocational       schools and
             the rest of the week receiving            on-the-job       training       from
             employers.       In addition     to imparting      specific       skills,
             the apprenticeship         system is used to socialize             youth
             into the world of work as well as to keep up with
             technological      change.
       --    Japanese noncollege          youth get jobs almost exclusively
             through school-employer             linkages.      Almost all high
             school students         seeking work are placed in jobs through
             their    schools,      which act as agents of the public
             employment      service.       Each high school has ties with
             employers     who assign a certain            number of jobs to the
             school for its graduates.                More prestigious      employers
             with better       job offers      recruit     from higher    ranked
             schools.      Japanese employers           usually    base hiring
             decisions     on schools'       recommendations,        which are based
             on students'        grades and "behavior"          such as attendance
       --    Sweden provides     work orientation        to all youth early       in
             the school years.       By age fifteen,         students  complete     six
             to ten weeks of work orientation.               Students  choosing     a
             vocational   field   are typically       trained     in school but
             also have practical      training     with an employer.         A 1988
             initiative   adding a third       year to vocational        high school
             programs includes     work experience         for 60 percent     of the
Recognized      skill     standards.       Germany in particular,             and more
recently      England,      seek to maintain         quality     occupational        training
by testing      and certification          to meet national           standards.
Trainees      who pass competency          tests receive         nationally      recognized
credentials,       which employers          look to as evidence            of skill      levels
of potential       hires.      England's       National      Council     for Vocational
Qualifications        has been working with industry                  to develop national
skill     standards.       Under West Germany's apprenticeship                   system,
committees       of government,        employer,      and union representatives
develop apprenticeship            curricula,       examinations,         and certification
procedures.        The practice         of establishing         skill    standards      and
certifying      what trainees        know contrasts          with the common U.S.
practice      of certifying       course completion           and not necessarily
attainment       of specific      skills.
Establishment  of national             training      standards    involves     industry
and government  cooperation.                Other    implementation      practicalities
are that standards          may be costly       to apply     and difficult        to keep
up to date.
Extensive     investment        in jobless      youth.     The foreign       countries
generally     provide      extensive     assistance      to jobless      youth.
England guarantees          every jobless         16 and 17 year old out-of-school
youth up to two years of work experience                    and training,        although
it is in process of revising               how the guarantee        is implemented.
Sweden guarantees          education,      training,     or work to every jobless
out-of-school       teenager.        Sweden's municipal         authorities        are
responsible      for following        up every 16 and 17 year old not in
school or working,           and pursuing       an individualized         plan for his or
her education,        training,      and employment.          Once youth are age 18,
they become the responsibility                 of the public      employment service,
which provides        such services        as placement       in training       programs
and jobs.

Shortcomings        in preparing    noncollege        youth for employment             in the
United States and approaches              identified       in foreign        countries
suggest actions        that U.S. educators           and private        and public
officials     might want to consider             to improve education            and
training.       In fact,     approaches      similar     to those in the foreign
countries     are being tried        in some U.S. localities.                  However, we
do not assume that the practices                 in the other countries,
developed      out of their      own traditions,         are entirely          appropriate
or readily      reproducible      in our country.            Also, directing          more
attention     to youth who seek employment               rather      than going on to
college     should not detract         from widely       available       college
opportunity       in the United States,            a practice      in which our country
generally      surpasses     its foreign       competitors.
We believe      there is need for more effective        leadership       and a
national      commitment   to meet work-skill    problems.      How well the
nation     does in educating     and training   youth who do not go on to
college     is a vital   element    in shaping our long-term       ability     to
improve productivity,        generate   economic growth,     and compete
effectively       in the world economy.
The following    warrant  consideration    by the federal,                   state,  and
local   governments   to improve nationwide     performance                  in equipping
our   youth:
         --     Strengthen     the commitment       to have all children        attain
                the academic skills         necessary     to perform effectively        in
                postsecondary       education    or the workplace.        This includes
                changes in expectations          and degree of attention          to those
                youth traditionally         doing poorly      in school.     Improving
                the image and status          of teachers,      adopting  instruction
                methods and other innovations             to encourage student
                effort,    expanding     early   intervention      programs,    and
             providing    adequate      educational       resources      are   important
       --    Develop closer         school-employer        linkages      to upgrade the
             school-to-work         connection.         In particular,      we should
             better      orient   students      to work requirements         and
             opportunities,         including      the importance        of educational
             effort      to work success;         promote combined education            and
             work (apprenticeship-type)               programs;     and more
             effectively        assist    youth to obtain        suitable    entry
       --    Improve     the quality  and utility           of school and industry
             training      programs by encouraging           development   of
             training      standards and certifying           levels   of competence.
We recognize        that the primary         responsibility         for education      and
training     rests with state and local              governments.         But adoption     of
effective      strategies      nationwide       to improve our productive
capability       and international         competitiveness         will    require   strong
leadership       and a more active         federal     role.     The Department        of
Education      together    with the Department              of Labor should play
such a role in stimulating              state and local         officials      and industry
and labor representatives             to work more effectively               to equip our
noncollege       youth to meet the nation's               need for well-qualified
future     workers.
Mr. Chairman,    this concludes           my prepared statement.      I and my
colleagues   would be pleased            to respond to any questions.