Who believes workers are lacking in skills? Maybe workers do

Who believes workers are lacking in skills? Maybe workers do

“The jobs are there, but the skills are not,” one executive said during meetings last month between the President and manufacturing CEOs.

Whether talking about the manufacturing or service sector, every day there seems to be more data, headlines and stories about the plight of businesses to find workers who can decipher a training manual, write a clear e-mail or download a PDF.

What we don’t read about every day? That many workers might agree they don’t have the skills they need to get ahead.

How else to account for the one in 10 workers who participated in a basic skills class to improve their reading, writing and math abilities in the previous year? This information according to the recent National Skills Coalition (NSC) report entitled ‘Foundational Skills in the Services Sector.’

Or the one in 3 workers who said they would have liked to participate (or participate more) in learning opportunities in the last year but had not been able to because of logistical barriers?

Not gaining these skills, despite a desire to do so, has resulted in some stark numbers. According to the NSC report:

  • 62% of service-sector workers in the target occupational categories have limited literacy skills
  • 74% have limited numeracy skills
  • 73% lack digital problem-solving skills


For these numbers to go down, the huge hurdles workers face when trying to up skill in order to attain or advance their employment must be flattened.

Hurdles such as not having enough time to regularly attend classroom-based lessons due to holding down two jobs or an unpredictable work schedule or limited child care or all of those reasons combined. Lacking an internet-enabled computer at home also hampers the most motivated learner from enrolling in online classes. And that’s not even mentioning the price to take these courses.

The NSC report identifies various organizations – including Cell-Ed – that can knock down several of these hurdles. In our case, it’s through effectively and efficiently teaching skills through what’s already in workers’ pockets: a cell phone.

Only when we meet workers where they are do we have a shot at up skilling the 32% of the US workforce that lacks these basic skills. After all, it’s not just businesses who believe we’re living in a low skills landscape. Workers seem to believe it, too.

Jessica Rothenberg-Aalami
CEO at Cell-Ed, Impact Entrepreneur & Ed Tech Innovator