Companies say they find dearth of needed


More than a third of all job applicants were incapable of doing the basic reading and math necessary for the positions they wanted, according to an American Management Association survey of personnel executives across the nation.

The survey of more than 1,000 personnel officials in member companies, conducted last year, defined "basic skills" as the ability to read instructions, write reports, and do arithmetic at a level adequate for common workplace tasks.

The sharp increase in math and reading deficiency -- about 35.5 percent, compared with the 18.9 percent found in a 1996 survey -- is not evidence of a "dumbing down" of the incoming work force, the association said, but instead testifies to the higher skills required in today's workplace. Also, the report said, when a rapidly expanding economy creates a skills shortage, as is now the case, employers find it necessary to test a greater number of applicants to find qualified workers.

The association said those circumstances might explain why the number of companies that hire skills-deficient applicants and train them in remedial classes has doubled since 1997. Those figures are especially high in manufacturing.

The New York-based American Management Association is a not-for-profit educational organization claiming about 10,000 corporate members.

Pub Date: 5/02/99

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