So That’s What Algebra is For - Tire Review Magazine

So That’s What Algebra is For

From the Nova Scotia Chronicle Herald:

Many N.S. Job Applicants Struggle With Math, Michelin Official Says

Up to 35% of high school graduates fail the basic literacy and math tests that Michelin gives to potential employees in Nova Scotia – tests that are geared to a Grade 8 level.

Hundreds of applicants have taken the test over the past several years.

"The pass rate is between 65% and 75%," Jim Morrison, human resources manager at Michelin’s Bridgewater plant, said in a recent interview.

Applicants do well on the literacy and communications aspects of the tests, but not on the math component.

"I believe kids are graduating and do not have the math skills that they need," Morrison said.

NDP Leader Darrell Dexter was in Bridgewater last week, where he called for the development of an advisory council on education and workforce development to better prepare students for the workplace and post-secondary education.

He said in an interview Michelin’s findings are exactly in line with what companies are telling him about the math and reading skills of high school graduates seeking jobs.

"Those who failed were not able to read basic charts, calculate averages or do long division."

Morrison said Michelin has not compiled the results from the last couple of years, so he cannot release concrete figures.

But he said, "the numbers are substantial" because Michelin administers the assessment to everyone who applies for a production job and makes it through an initial screening.

He said the tire maker has hired over 200 people a year in Nova Scotia for the past several years, more than 100 at the Bridgewater plant last year alone, and they all took the tests.

Morrison said he is particularly concerned that the failure rate is even greater among aboriginal applicants.

"Their success rates were almost exactly half that of the total population of applicants," he said.

He would not say how many aboriginal applicants have written the test for Michelin.

"I find it disturbing because they graduate from the same schools in the province, so something is happening that they are not educated to the same level in math skills," Morrison said.

Because of those results, Michelin has developed a partnership with the aboriginal community and the federal and provincial governments to enhance employment opportunities with the company.

Morrison said Michelin now has a workforce that is representative of the aboriginal workforce in Nova Scotia.

And he said overall test results have improved lately because Michelin introduced an upgrading program through the community college. The corporation pays 90% of the cost of the 14-hour program, aimed at bringing potential employees up to the level that they will pass the test.

"It’s to refresh people on the things that they may have forgotten that they learned in Grade 8," Morrison said.

Dexter said in an interview it is clear employers don’t want to waste the resources they have in their communities.

"A lot of the employers are having to pick up where the education system has left off in order to prepare people themselves for their work environment and that speaks very well about the response of the private sector fields for having a properly trained and educated workforce."

Dexter said, if elected, an NDP government would establish a council to advise the province on how to ensure students and adults get the basic skills and advanced training they need to do the available jobs.

"It would be composed equally of employer and employee representatives, plus a representative of the universities and a representative of the community college," he said.

Such a council would get advice from employers and post-secondary institutions on curriculum changes that would better prepare students for the workplace and university or college.

"They’re not only not prepared for the workplace, they’re not prepared for post-secondary education," Dexter said.

"People coming through the door to go to universities or community college are having significant difficulties coping with the program requirements."

If you have comments to share, send to me at [email protected].

– Jim Smith

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