Thirty-Two Million Adults Need to Develop Critical Skills –Who Will Meet the Challenge?


Access to training for employees, and quality skills assessment tools, can solve a growing problem in the workforce.

One-in-ten odds does not make for a good bet. Yet those are the odds employers will find on whether a graduating student is up to the challenge of a particular career. It’s a damning statistic that shows a societal need to better develop, prepare, and assess the skills of adults entering or already in the workforce.

The original bombshell came in 2013, when a Gallup report revealed that just 11 percent of employers believe graduating students have the necessary skills to perform in the jobs they seek. Things haven’t improved— additional studies have since shown that up to 96 percent of employers are generally unhappy with their labor pools and new hires.   According to Village Capital, this is a double-sided issue crippling the potential of the US workforce and employment marketplace alike. 


The challenge isn’t limited to the key tasks of a particular job. According to innovation engine XPRIZE, the gap in the U.S. workforce is particularly troubling when assessing “power skills” such as communication, teamwork, collaboration, adaptability, conflict resolution, problem solving, and critical thinking. These skills, according to XPRIZE’s research, are just as valued by most employers (or even more valued by some) as the particular technical skills for which job candidates are hired.

Without the tools necessary to assess these hard and soft skills, employers are in the dark as to whether their hires are equipped to fuel an organization’s success. Mere completion of a university degree program or technical certificate no longer gives employers the confidence that a job candidate is fit for a position.

This issue manifests two challenges for which solutions are critical to buttress the workforce. First, adults need better access to systems that will ensure their skill sets are up to par. Second, employers will need better tools beyond job interviews and reference checks to assess a candidate’s fit for a particular job.

On a grander scale, society needs employers big and small to have confidence that the future workforce has the skills necessary to thrive in the professional world — otherwise, the costs are tremendous. Employee turnover is nearly as costly as keeping the wrong person in a job. Solving this problem will create a win-win-win for job candidates, employers, and the institutions of learning that are tasked with making the education-to-employment journey work for everyone.

Part of this problem is the quick drop-off of skills education and development after the traditional university experience. This becomes plainly apparent in the numbers. According to a study by consulting firm Tyton Partners, there are approximately 36 million adults in the U.S. who are compromised in their job opportunities because of deficient skills, yet the entire adult education industry accommodates only 4.1 million of them.

So, while employers believe that roughly one in ten graduating students is actually prepared for a job, the adult education system is similarly serving only one in ten adults who need skills enhancement. Tyton’s study makes it clear that improving the quality and access to adult education is critical for the benefit of individual job seekers’ welfare and broader societal impact.

ONE SOLUTION -- For the 32 million non-consumers of basic education that need to gain critical skills to bolster their lives and society

Both employers and educators — not to mention job candidates — want a strong, skilled workforce. The challenge is the ability to define, measure, and test the most important elements that demonstrate ability and skills, at scale. For all parties in this equation, meaningful assessment can rapidly enhance the workforce and solve the critical challenges faced by those tasked with scaling their organizations. A renewed focus on effective assessment methodology can empower schools and businesses — especially those focused on the adult education market — to escape this obsolescence.

Afocus on leveraging technology can certainly help. Using machine learning and advanced analytics, for instance, the team at Authess has built a methodology to equip employers and the adult education system with the tools to engage and assess their candidates authentically, in real-world scenarios. This approach enables stakeholders to truly measure if job candidates have the needed skills and are able to meet the professional challenges ahead. This methodology is designed to help educators and employers determine not just what their candidates know, but, more importantly, if they have the ability to apply that knowledge in the real world.


Village Capital notes that 83 percent of HR managers say their systems need an overhaul in order for them to effectively identify and hire top talent. And this isn’t just an issue that employers recognize. Village Capital’s research also shows that 46 percent of U.S. workers consider themselves underemployed, and 75 percent of those with a job indicate that they do not believe they are harnessing their degree or training. Both sides are left wanting.

There is a wide-open market to advance adult education and better teach the skills necessary for success in the modern workforce. And there is a need to examine the legacy credentials that have been standard bearers in determining a candidate’s suitability for a job. But in the end, employees and employers must find the right tools to validate the skills of a particular job candidate, allowing the employer to make the right hire — and allowing the employee to find the right training needed to advance in his or her career.

Authess will continue to advance effective tools designed to align the assessment needs of educators and employers with a system that works, at the scale they require. To learn more about Authess and the ability to assess skills and competency, visit our website at



The Solution to Job Turnover: Smarter Hires with Better Data


Giving corporations a way to measure an applicant’s ability to demonstrate power skills with an online assessment — prior to signing a contract — will lead to better hires and a lower turnover rate.

Losing a valued employee can be a crushing experience for any business—it costs the company money, sets projects off track, and may end up being more expensive than expected. Turnover costs can be high, especially when trying to quickly hire a new employee who can fit the mold of the company. Preventing employee turnover before it gains momentum has become a crucial problem for many companies. When it comes to employee turnover, there are two unsettling questions that are always asked: Why are they leaving, and how can we prevent the same situation in the future?

As companies continue to search for productive, talented employees to fit their culture, employers are finding it harder than ever to trust a resume, transcript, and the interview process. Increasingly, companies need more insight into what a candidate can actually do.  Because of the high cost of recruitment, it is crucial to implement accurate and scalable assessments of potential hires prior to their initiation. Yet corporations continue to rely on the antiquated systems that are in place.

One guarantee is this: Current hiring methods are not accurate enough for companies, and can lead to wasted time, money, and energy. Companies need to focus not on the cost of hiring, but on the cost of turnover. Without a renewed focus on effectively assessing a potential hire, businesses will find themselves forever repeating these problems. 

What goes wrong?

New hires don’t stick for a number of reasons, but often the core factors for leaving or dismissal revolve around three motivations:

  1. They weren’t the right fit for the role, work type, or position.
  2. The work was different than they expected. The job description didn’t accurately reflect the position— they may have gotten bored, overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed.
  3. The new employee becomes frustrated because they have failed to quickly reach their expected level of productivity or quality.

This isn’t news. In fact, many business owners will tell you they’ve dealt with a new hire that fits at least one of these situations. But avoiding these issues is nearly impossible with traditional screening methods, and this assessment deficit is exposed  once the hire is brought on and given an opportunity to work for the company.

While it can be costly to have a high turnover rate for entry-level positions, the severity is magnified in higher-level positions. For higher-level applicants, getting it right vs. wrong can have a huge impact on the company. A study by the Society for Human Resource Management shows employers spend the equivalent of six to nine months of an employee’s salary in order to find and train their replacement. In a study conducted by the Center for America Progress, the cost of losing an employee can be anywhere from 16% of their salary for hourly, unsalaried employees, and up to 213% of the salary for a highly trained position.

What positions/fields need assessment?

It can be difficult to gauge whether a hire will be successful or not. Some industries have begun to implement authentic assessment methods prior to being hired. The coding and software development industries in particular have tests for potential hires that assess their performance as they take on a sample problem. Today, these types of assessments are moving beyond the tech world.  Athletic retailer Footlocker, unhappy with the results that standard resume screening process was producing, implemented an online skills assessment to begin using data to improve its candidate selection. The results included a double-digit increase in sales-per-hour and a double-digit reduction in new hire turnover. Footlocker also saw a huge reduction in the time being spent reviewing applicants, as the assessments brought the total number of strong candidates down to 3 per opening from as many as 300.

For quantitative and defined skill sets, such as software engineering, creating an infrastructure to test for ability is not as difficult as it might be for a position with less tangible or more varied duties, such as complex case management in the insurance industry or high-touch consultative sales positions.  But a new technology is making it possible — and simple — to establish an assessment method for any and all positions.

The new paradigm

The current job-market has become increasingly distrustful of resumes and interviews; there is a clear need for improving employee assessment and hiring methods. To bridge the gap, many corporations have begun looking to data analytics to receive a more accurate and comprehensive assessment of how an employee would perform.

When it comes to hiring new talent, data rules the realm of recruiting — and retention. The most successful employee recruitment is achieved by the top companies in the world (Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft.) The key to their success is the reliance on data-driven recruiting models. The only way for a corporation to see how an applicant works and will perform in a new position is through a data-driven, authentic assessment. Not only does this measure the quality of their work, it measures their problem solving and ability to think critically.  These “power skills” and essential competencies have been given increasing levels of attention in recent years as the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce has collaborated with Burning Glass, Labor Insight, and Indeed to identify the top skills employers want.

Giving corporations a way to measure an applicant’s ability to demonstrate these power skills with an online skills assessment — not traditional self-reported data but actual insight into their ability to apply these skills in the kind of problem the company will expect them to do on the job, prior to signing a contract — can lead to better hires and ultimately, a lower turnover rate.

Authess solves many of these problems and headaches from turnover by eliminating bad hires before they get in the door. With Authess, assessment modules are designed by the company, for the company, and then measures top performers to benchmark optimal performance. Rather than the usual guessing game of how a new hire might perform, institutions can use job-relevant skills assessments that provide performance insights on the talents that truly matter. Authess allows a company to assess the level of competency a potential recruit has, giving the ability to weed out anyone who does not meet expectations. Vice-versa, Authess allows an applicant to experience the job role, workflow, and assignments typical of the company. Authess alleviates the pressure on blind faith in a transcript and interview, and puts the focus on measuring real ability.

Not to mention, Authess’ online assessments and reporting is highly scalable, making it invaluable to a company experiencing high growth. Authess is a tool that eliminates wasted time, effort, and capital, all while providing insight to recruit optimal employees and save a company from the hassle of turnover.

Without a shift toward authentic assessments, not only will companies consistently fail to recruit top talent, but also lack the assurance of landing talent that sticks. If you have an opening coming up, look to Authess for the crucial help you need.

What’s Next for Competency Based Education?

Competency Based Education, or CBE, is an ongoing topic of debate in the sphere of higher education, with many predicting it will continue to disrupt the current system. The practice is often hailed as a solution for adult or non-traditional learners, as it allows learners to progress at their own pace, focusing on mastery of a skill rather than time spent in a classroom. CBE-only programs such as College for America or Western Governors University have gained popularity for their CBE programs. But the growing trend isn’t limited to CBE-only programs; today, more than 600 institutions have or plan to incorporate new competency-based credentials.

It would take a paradigm shift to push CBE into global adoption, yet the results from CBE-based programs are encouraging. CBE methods are far from orthodox, as the goal is to teach for competency and ability to transfer knowledge rather than rote learning to pass tests.

But are the current methods to assess knowledge transfer and evaluate a student’s competency as progressive as they need to be? Or do they simply reuse conventional testing methodologies that score the ability to memorize the curriculum, rather than a student’s ability to actively apply what they learn? While these old methods are convenient and cost effective at scale, they have proven time and again to inaccurately predict a student’s skills. And though, with the use of adaptive technology, these methods may illustrate mastery of concepts, they fall short of demonstrating mastery of how to apply those concepts.

There is a need for CBE and we have seen great progress in recent years, but educators, students, and the labor markets continuously ask the question: how is CBE assessed and do we have the means to prove mastery beyond mere knowledge of content?

What’s the Hype About?

CBE has been around for quite some time, and has gained significant momentum in recent years as the number of non-traditional learners seeking to continue their education increases. While the traditional education model measures competency on some level, the time-based nature of a college course — about four months — means students may proceed without fully understanding the material.

Evangelists of the CBE movement believe it enhances the value of education and improves overall understanding. With Competency Based Education, students are not pressured with required classroom time. Their progress is measured by demonstrating their competence with the subject matter, proving they have mastered the knowledge and skills of the course.

Many educators hoping to burst the multiple choice Scantron bubble argue that CBE measures student learning more accurately than traditional education programs — an assertion that could increase CBE’s credibility for both students and their future employers. A recent study found that 71% of colleges said they hoped CBE would expand employment opportunities for non-traditional students. Further, we know CBE aligns with the needs of employers, who are looking for students with domain-specific and 21st century skills, not content knowledge that can be easily discovered online.

“Competency Based Education does away with the defined duration and credit hours, replacing time with mastery. Not all students study at the same rate — and some have already acquired a range of knowledge and skills — so competency-based education offers an “to each their own” model for degree completion.”

Promise and Problems

Education and learning take many forms, and limiting the structure of higher education to time spent in a classroom creates a barrier for many non-traditional learners (who now make up the majority). When implemented correctly, CBE can improve quality and consistency, reduce costs, and shorten the time required to graduate. While offering competency-based education could be advantageous for many traditional students, it is particularly ideal for the 37 million American adults with some college experience but no degree. CBE makes it possible for them to pick up where they left off on the path toward their degree.

The major barrier to mainstream adoption of CBE are the methods used to assess the competency it purports to cultivate. There continues to be a lack of faith from the labor market in the ability to predict success from a resume and a transcript. Some concerns have been expressed from accreditation auditors tasked with approving diplomas from CBE programs. With a system focused on competency, it’s crucial that educators adopt methods to accurately assess a student’s ability to apply what has been learned. In order for CBE to gain real traction and truly compete with the traditional system, educators and prospective employers need a credible, demonstrable method to assess and prove that students have mastered application of the material and acquired real world skills.

So, Does It Work?

Ideally, CBE “works” for many reasons and for many different categories of people. Non-traditional learners can receive higher education while saving time and money, and taking ownership of their own education. Educators can expose students to the skills they will need in the real world, get better insight into each student’s skills, and create better alignment with industry by making sure students are not simply memorizing facts, but are learning to apply their knowledge in realistic situations. Employers can trust that their investment in new talent will be more predictable and effective.

Developing a framework to authentically assess competency-based learning experiences is the next step for CBE — one that connects the real-world skills employers are asking for with the power skills needed for future success.

Our team at Authess is working on addressing this complex challenge by providing cost effective and scalable scoring of hard-to-measure competencies, including complex problem solving — the kind of evidence any CBE program needs. Using machine learning and advanced analytics, Authess assesses the learner’s ability to apply skills in real-world scenarios. Authess provides employers, educators, and students alike the ability to gauge whether or not they’ll be successful in the given field or with specific tasks, and if not, where they need to focus their efforts. Put simply, Authess can provide CBE programs meaningful insight into the competencies they seek to support.

By leveraging the competency-based assessments like those delivered by Authess, CBE can fully claim a place as a compelling alternative to traditional methods of learning and assessment. Authess gives competency-based educators the ability to accurately place students, teach them using real-world examples, and authentically measure how they apply knowledge. With a mission focused on workforce readiness and successful employment, Authess equips educators and employers with a cost-effective and scalable tool to engage their candidates authentically, providing invaluable insight into their true capabilities.

To learn more about Authess and the ability to assess skills and competency, visit our website at