The Intel Corp. recently surveyed parents and found that many are better equipped to talk with their teenagers about drug abuse than about math and science.
This should concern us all — educators and parents, legislators and employers, community leaders and mentors — because a strong background in math and science is increasingly critical for success in today's job market.
Unfortunately, the rush to help students improve in math and science has created an unintended "college for all" mentality. This push toward a four-year college degree has put many employers in a vexing spot, struggling to fill openings that require specialized training.
As the state Board of Education works to address recommendations of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's "Education Efficiency Audit of West Virginia's Primary and Secondary Education System," we must not forget it is vital that public education aligns with work force needs.
The board's audit response "Audit to Action: Students First," available at http://wvde.state.wv.us/policies/audit-response.html, addresses areas where that alignment can be strengthened.
A recent study commissioned by the state showed that more than two-thirds of our state's manufacturing employers reported a shortage of qualified job candidates in a state where the jobless rate is pushing 8 percent.
They say too few job applicants can read a blueprint, operate computerized equipment, or successfully tackle the other tasks involved in today's high-tech manufacturing.
Nationally, in the midst of an economy struggling to grow, there are approximately 3.6 million open jobs in America, indicating a skills gap between what is being taught in our schools and what employers require to fill a position.
As educators, policymakers and decision-makers, it is our responsibility to address this issue if we want our state and nation to prosper.
We not only want to ensure that all students have the opportunity to attend a four-year college but also to support opportunities for students to develop skills that a career technical center or two-year community college can provide.
We do so by creating an educational system that is seamless from preschool, to elementary school, to middle school, to high school to post-secondary education to the work force.
Statistically, 90 percent of the fastest-growing jobs require some education beyond high school — but not necessarily a four-year college degree. About half of all employment today is still in the middle-skill occupations.
The term "middle" is misleading. The jobs are in high demand, require high-level training and skills, and result in a salary that is anything but middle.
Middle-skill jobs include certifications in information technology, computer-controlled machine operators, surgical technicians, respiratory therapists, aircraft technicians, and building and industrial maintenance workers, just to mention a few.