Don’t let the title fool you — this book is an important piece of work.  In fact, not only do I think Kenneth Gray should be appointed as Secretary of Education in the cabinet of our next president, but I firmly believe (wishful thinking, I know) that every American citizen should read this book, since I believe the insights it provides are not only long overdue, but critical to the long-term future of our economy.

Brilliantly written, and built on a platform of shocking educational statistics, Getting Real makes the case that our economy and educational system are dangerously out of synch — and that we are systematically, willfully condemning the majority of today’s youth to failure out in today’s job market.  In the most elementary terms, the author argues that the unquestioned priority of the nation today is to increase the number of college admissions and to promote a college degree as the unequivocal path to career prosperity and success.  And yet, numerous studies indicate that less than 23% of all employment requires a college-level education, and that stressing the need for every teenager to matriculate is causing a massive shortage of workers who possess the vocational and technical skills most in demand in today’s workplace.  Want proof?  Consider the record number of undocumented workers that employers are hiring today for skilled positions, as well as the record number of emergency immigrant visas that companies have requested over the past decade, despite the millions of U.S. citizens who are un- or underemployed.  There’s clearly a major gap in the system — and Mr. Gray bravely exposes it.

This quick overview, however, does not even come close to doing justice to the force and eloquence of the author’s argument.  He emphasizes the need to instill the concept of “career maturity” in students at a much younger age and to guide them down pathways that will lead to satisfying, living-wage jobs instead of chronic failure (over 50% of all college attendees today will not graduate) and the frustration of incurring significant college debt without a clear financial return on this investment.  Suffice it to say that all of the author’s arguments ring true with my own career coaching experience, and the dynamics he outlines are by no means isolated to the “younger generations” alone — they have a pronounced ripple effect on every worker in today’s economy.  Kids’ stuff?  Far from it…