Could You Work in an Auto Plant?

Published on 29 July 2010 by Kelly Riggs in Career Building, Job Search


new york city housewives 225x300 Could You Work in an Auto Plant?Is it just me, or do most people have little sense of what is going on in the world beyond American Idol or Survivor or The Real Housewives of (Fill in Your Favorite)? The average “man (or woman) on the street” doesn’t seem to know much of anything beyond sports and reality television.

Yes, I know, that is a sweeping generalization and completely unfair. Actually, most people are well-educated (read this), well-read, and quite knowledgeable about current affairs.


The “average” adult in the United States reads at a 9th grade level, and, as referenced in this MSNBC article, adult math skills have gone into hiding:

According to the Department of Education’s National Assessment of Adult Literacy, U.S. adults are terrible at solving real-world math problems, like calculating tips or comparing prices in grocery stores. Some dismal results:

Only 42 percent were able to pick out two items on a menu, add them, and calculate a tip.

Only 1 in 5 could reliably calculate mortgage interest.

1 in 5 could not calculate weekly salary when told an hourly pay rate.

Only 13 percent were deemed “proficient.” Worse yet, only 1 in 10 women, 1 in 25 Hispanics and 1 in 50 African Americans made the grade.

More good news: according to the President’s National Mathematics Advisory Panel, “half of 17 year olds couldn’t do enough math to work in an auto plant.”

Hey, I’m not some kind of intellectual snob, nor do I value a person more or less because they don’t know who the Vice President is or can’t find Montpelier, VT on a map (for those of you keeping score at home, that would be the capital of Vermont). No, the problem is that employers are typically looking for employees who can think, solve problems, and develop ideas. If job seekers don’t do anything to develop those skills, they risk being permanently relegated to second-tier status as a job candidate.

The idea in job search is to give yourself the very best opportunity to land a good job. Every single advantage, no matter how small, helps. One certain way to elevate yourself above many competitive job seekers is to demonstrate your ability to think and solve problems. Sadly, many job seekers don’t read well, can’t write business correspondence, and can’t do basic math calculations.

The solution? Extend your interests. Read a newspaper regularly. Pick up Math for Dummies. Complete a Sudoku puzzle once in a while (a little practice at solving problems).

Sound silly?

So does this: “We have filled that position.”

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