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Global Competition: Where do American Millennials Rank in the World Market?

Jul 08, 2015 02:00PM ● Published by Cate Reynolds

According to a recent study of test results, American Millennials are operating at a distinct disadvantage in the world market. The report was conducted by the Princeton-based Educational Testing Service (ETS) and entitled America’s Skills Challenge: Millennials and the Future. The test administered, the PIAAC, was designed to measure the job skills of adults aged 16 to 65 in 23 countries.

First, let’s define the term “Millennial” for the purpose of the study. Here, as elsewhere, it refers to someone born after 1980, and who was between 16 to 34 years old when the study took place. The opening sentence of the report’s overview solemnly states: “Millennials may be on track to be our most educated generation ever, but they consistently score below many of their international peers in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving.

The media jumped all over the report when it was published in March. The Washington Post online headline shouted: “U.S. millennials post ‘abysmal’ scores in tech skills test, lag behind foreign peers.” Fortune.com said, “Surprised? So were the researchers who tested and compared workers in 23 countries.”

In literacy, American Millennials scored below their counterparts in every country that participated except Spain and Italy. (Japan ranked number one, Finland second in all categories.) In the ability to apply basic math to everyday situations (that’s what numeracy is), our “kids” ranked dead last.

Fortune pointed out that even in the area of technology, where Americans are supposed to shine, we were in a four-way tie on the bottom rung with the Slovak Republic, Ireland, and Poland.

To view the full report and download a PDF, visit www.ets.org/millennials. —S.H.
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