Education and job performance

Published 7:00 am Saturday, September 20, 2014

Google is one of the most amazing business stories to emerge during the tech boom.  We most commonly think of Google as a company that allows us to search for things on the World Wide Web.  Personally, I am a huge Google fan.  This company provides so many other products such as the Android Operating System for smart phones and an email service called Gmail.  However, this is not a free publicity rant for Google; with the money that this company earns, no freebies are needed.  This is a story on education and career success.

In a New York Times story that actually ran over a year ago (June 19, 2013), Google released some very interesting data about their workforce. Google’s search engine is actually a big data-crunching machine. The engineers, programmers and analysts at Google help us find information on the World Wide Web by the use of mathematical algorithms. The smart people at Google devised ways to find what we are looking for in cyberspace by utilizing mathematical formulas (i.e. algorithms) to match what is typed in to the search box to all of the information on the Internet; there is a lot of information on the Internet!

With all of this said, it is pretty apparent that Google is amazing at gathering data, entering that data into mathematical formulas and developing algorithms that help their engineers and scientists draw conclusions.

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Google has put these methods to work to help them learn about their workforce. To remain at the top of the business world, managers at Google know that they must hire and retain the most talented workers.

Data analysts at Google have drawn some very interesting facts about their workforce. The first is that a new hire’s college grade point average (GPA) has very little correlation to job performance. Google found that after a couple of years on the job, performance on the job was unrelated to college performance.  Secondly, test scores do not predict anything. So much importance is placed on “high stakes testing” in schools. Yet, the guys at Google have not found a correlation to test scores and job performance. This is Earth shattering.

So what are educators to do?

Gallup, Inc., like Google, is a big data company. They do surveys and opinion polls to find out key information about the economy, education, politics and other areas. In one such survey on education, Gallup asked college provosts, businesses and college graduates if new hires were prepared for the workplace.

Only 11 percent of the business leaders strongly agreed that new hires were prepared for the workplace. The actual college grad themselves indicated low levels of preparedness, coming in at 14 percent. There seems to be a disconnect with the business and education community, as 96 percent of the college provosts believed that higher education had prepared students for the work place.

What are schools doing wrong? It appears that the emphasis on high stakes testing and GPA is not building a workforce that will maintain a robust economy.

However, Gallup might have found the answer. In their survey work, two major influencing factors that new hires denoted doubled their odds of being an engaged, productive workplace member. The first factor was an education experience that included an instructor that cared for the student and encouraged them to meet their goals. The second was an internship opportunity where the student applied knowledge learned in the classroom in a business setting.

Now, more so than ever, students indicate that their reason for going to college is to “get a job”.  This should motivate colleges to build linkages to their business and industry partners to create internship opportunities for students.

Let’s hope that the emphasis on testing has reached a peak in this country. It is time to align classroom curriculum with real world problems that creates problem solvers. The economy seeks engaged workers not expert standardized test takers.

By Scott Alsobrooks