Our newspapers and cable news channels are full of “education” stories these days. One group wants to increase government investment while the other decries even the idea of a “Department of Education.” I think they’re all overlooking “the forest for the trees!”

75% of the high school students that our education system graduates each year are not likely to earn a college baccalaureate degree. These students eventually comprise the majority of America’s front-line workforce, and the prosperity of this country depends on them. Yet, the skills they leave school with are not the skills American businesses need to return this nation to global competitiveness. Consequently, businesses are increasingly turning to multi-sensory E-Learning (full-motion video and optional word-for-word audio courseware) to effectively re-school their workforce.

Compared with other countries, American front-line workers lag far behind in the sophisticated skills needed to compete internationally: communications, math, science, conceptual thinking, flexibility, responsiveness, and technological expertise. These are skills that most front-line workers in many Asian and European countries possess, to the ultimate economic benefit of those nations. What those countries have learned about education and the workforce has been translated into comprehensive public education programs for the non-college bound student. These programs all but obliterate the conventional lines between education and training.

In the United States, however, the educational system has not changed from that of fifty or more years ago, when most workers’ jobs were de-skilled and required little thinking. Perhaps that was appropriate for an America that led the world in a price-driven mass-production economy. People left school knowing all they would ever have to know in that environment. They did not learn how to get new information or how to continue with a program of life-long learning.

Although the world economic reality has changed greatly since then, neither American education nor many American businesses have kept pace. Mass production and a price-driven economy are long gone, but most organizations still segregate jobs into non-thinking and thinking jobs. The new truth is that in order to perform on an international level, front-line workers have to think. Unfortunately, most high school students in this country follow an unfocused, teacher-centered, general educational curriculum that prepares them for neither college nor a vocation.

Thanks to the evolution underway in multi-sensory E-Learning, change is on the horizon. E-Learning is now both here and destined to become prevalent. We must look to that solution in order to rebuild an education system that will emphasize skills training (and, its graduates) in the same vein it rewards its college prep tracks.

More on Tuesday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning