Technical Education Post

News and Information for Technical Educators

The Inability of U.S. Citizens(middle class) to Work in a Complex Technical Environment(high wage environment).

Note the charts are on youtube link:

The middle class has not gotten a raise in the past 40 years. The charts I will discuss are from the PIAAC; it foretells that the middle class’s standard of living will collapse in the near future. The majority of the middle-class cannot work in a technologically sophisticated environment, a high-wage environment. 

The PIAAC, Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies, assesses literacy, numeracy, and digital problem solving(PS-TRE). It is not political nor politically correct. Why go with an International Study of how well students are doing because we are in a globalized economy, and it’s easy to send high tech jobs overseas. We are in a war for high tech jobs. People who are unemployed or underemployed have more significant stresses in life and social problems. Tech- complex jobs are generally a gateway to the middle class. In the United States, Europe, and  Canada, the middle-class is on the decline.  In Asia, the middle class is increasing. Another reason for using international studies is because grade inflation is rampant in the United States.

International companies, no doubt, use the scores to determine where they can create jobs. It also shows the global competition between countries(the new digital space race) to better other countries’ scores.

The first chart I want to discuss is from the PIAAC problem- solving in Technologically Rich Environments for adults aged 16 to 65. The first graph shows the scores in a number of countries from highest to lowest in terms of a  Technologically Rich Environment(TRE). The United States at  274  is the last, and Japan, and Finland are first and second. It’s hard to believe were a handful of white boys created Microsoft,  Apple computers, Amazon, and Google. How can the majority of US citizens be so far behind? This is also very embarrassing. Remember, Japan and Finland are at the top of the list. 

This next chart is the international comparison of math competencies of adults  16 to 65 and 15-year-olds and the average income for  2012 and 2014. It shows average income, adult numeracy, and problem-solving in a  Technologically Rich Environment. On this chart you can see, the United States has the highest family income over $54,000, and we have one of the lowest scores on it; we are at – 0.2 standard deviations from the norm. As jobs become increasingly technologically complex, U.S. citizens will not be able to fill them. Technologically complex jobs are the high paying jobs of the future, that is, Technological Sophistication in the office or the factory. The future holds that we will have to drop off in the stand of living for the middle class in the United States.  

This next chart is not from the PIAAC. This chart shows that U.S. students anchor the bottom of  International test results for 17- year olds taking courses in algebra. If you remember, Japan and Finland had the highest scores in a technology Rich environment. They also have some of the highest scores in the above chart related to algebra. There is a correlation between how well students do in algebra and how well they do in a TRE and, by extension, being able to have high-paying jobs in the future. You see that the United States is at the bottom of the chart. You should not infer from the chart that people going to college are the most technologically sophisticated. Remember, a handful of white boys created TRE in silicon valley, and a number of them were college dropouts. A myth about technological sophistication in this digital age is that if you teach young kids coding, they will work in a TRE world; a couple of publications have come out to show that this is incorrect. Coding does not teach problem-solving.

The last chart displays the percentage of U.S. adults aged 16 to 34 at each level of proficiency on the PIAAC problem solving and technologically  It shows proficiency levels from 1 to 3 in a TRE in the U.S.    The scores are broken out by race; only 9% of white boys achieve the highest level of three. This is a significant disappointment in the United States; we developed the internet, ethernet, invented the transistor, microprocessor, the personal computer, and created a new internet of the world. The scores for African Americans are far worse: only 1% can work in a level 3 TRE world. At level two, only 16% of the African-Americans can perform at that level, whereas whites have 43%. Unfortunately, African Americans have been sold on the idea that if their kids learn to code that they can compete in this digital world. A significant article has been published that refutes that idea.

This will be an ongoing series of articles relating to technology, education, and how our children stack up in the Global world. I will also give parents information on how their children can succeed in the TRE world.

About the Author

Paul  F. Renda has over 30 years in information security. He has spoken at a number of above ground and below ground hacker conferences. He studied physics and math at Queens College and the University of Houston, and he has worked as a system administrator for IBM Z/OS and Linux systems.


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