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