Decline in Creativity of American Students, Lack of Skilled Labor for Jobs & What that Means for Our Students

suit and tie

From the desk of Travis Albea, Director of Marketing:

When I began looking for work after college a few years ago, I read a lot of job postings. And I mean, A LOT! Business after business wanted the same things: a strong work ethic and creativity.

Maybe you know this because you own or help hire at your business. Others know this because you know what a pain it is to work with people who lack these two qualities.

Today’s economy is on the upswing and job creation is on the rise. Just the other day, I saw this chart about job openings, hires, and quits over the past decade.

Total Private Job Openings, Hires & Quits


What I find so interesting about this chart is that since 2009 there has been a huge increase in job openings, yet new hires has steadily grown at a similar rate to quits. To me, that says the US has plenty of jobs, but not enough skilled people to place in those jobs.

That point becomes all the clearer when you see this graph about creativity in high school students:

Creative Thinking Skills Among HS Students

As you can see, creative thinking has been on a steady decline for over 20 years among US students, and our current job market is reflecting this data.

Oh, and I forgot to mention – anyone remember the late 80’s and early 90’s? That’s when there was a rise in the “standards” movement in the public education sphere in the US.* It is also when a liberal arts education began going into decline. Think about that, and look at the chart again.

Employers want creative employees. The education system in America, for the most part, leaves our students’ creativity wanting. The result? Not enough skilled employees for the positions needed. What is the solution? What does all this mean? Why is the Director of Marketing at a private school in Tyler, TX talking about it? Because we want to prepare students not only for college, but for their future.

When I see charts like these I grow discouraged for the future of US students as they graduate and enter the workforce. However, when I step inside classrooms at Brook Hill and see what our students are doing on a daily basis, my fears subside (for them at least). Our students learn to think critically here – to analyze problems and find solutions. Their involvement in extra-curricular activities solidifies their work ethic. From young to old, our students engage in creative thinking in the classroom as they interact and discuss with faculty and one another.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise – this is what we are about as an institution. I truly believe that if our students apply themselves and take advantage of the opportunities presented to them at Brook Hill and in college, they won’t be part of the decline of creativity in America. Just the opposite – they will find that they have the ability to problem solve, come up with new ideas, and have the determination to rise above their responsibilities and the expectations placed on them. And that is what employers are looking for.

If you want proof, watch this video interview of one of our alumni:


I would like to leave you with this closing quote from an article (the same article I got the charts on creativity from). I hope these words actually encourage you as you reflect on what your students are doing in the classroom at Brook Hill.

“To reverse decline in creative thinking, the United States should reclaim opportunities for its students and teachers to think flexibly, critically, and creatively. Standardization should be resisted. Novel, creative thought and expression should be encouraged, and opportunities should be made available for participation in active, critical discussion. Older children still need time for reflective abstraction, and they also need their parents and teachers to pay attention to them and support their creative endeavors.” – Kyung Hee Kim, “The Creativity Crisis” (Click here to read article)

What do you think?**

* I do recognize that the lack of skilled labor is not only due to “standardized testing” or a lack of creative room in curriculum, but I do think there is a correlation and that this is worth having a discussion about. There are other factors that may contribute such as the use of technology, media, socio-economic circumstances, etc.

** The idea for this blog came to me after reading a post from Christopher Penn: