Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 29, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

WORK READINESS....New York State already requires high school students to pass a stringent battery of tests in order to earn a diploma, but apparently the business community remains unhappy with the skill level of graduating students. They want the state to award a "work readiness" credential to students who pass a new and different kind of test test:

The test would cover so-called soft skills in 10 broad areas, including the ability to communicate, follow directions, negotiate and make basic decisions. It will be tried out in pilot programs this spring and could be ready as early as the fall, officials said. The test, given by computer, would include one section on speaking skills, with oral answers to be recorded and then analyzed by examiners.

I've got nothing against testing for these abilities, but I have a different idea. The business community, as you may have heard, is our foremost booster of private enterprise. So why do they expect the taxpayers to subsidize a skills screening test for their prospective employees? Does the state pay for their drug screening?

Instead, how about if private testing firms create their own "work readiness" credentials? Competition would quickly separate the wheat from the chaff, and different firms would likely specialize in skills testing for different kinds of jobs. Employers would choose their preferred firms and preferred testing regimens and would pay to have their prospective new hires tested. Those who don't feel that this kind of testing is worth the extra cost would just rely on a diploma and a job interview, like they do now.

I can think of a few regulatory issues this might inspire, but nothing very onerous and nothing unsolvable. So why is the state involved in this at all? If the free market hasn't created a demand for this on its own, maybe it's not something the taxpayers should get too excited about either.

Kevin Drum 12:28 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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