Aptitude assessments help drive talent, regardless of gender, to high-demand fields

AMERICAN FORK, UT– Research from the University of Missouri confirms aptitude assessments can help close gender gaps and increase the talent pool in high-demand, rapidly growing fields like healthcare, computer technology, manufacturing, and construction.

The research, entitled “Mitigating the skills gap by addressing the gender imbalance in high-demand careers,” was published by Cambridge University Press.

“As our nation works to recover from a historic pandemic that has created significant disruptions in our workforce and labor pool – specifically, a record number of unemployed women  – assessing the best strategies to support a comprehensive recovery and maximize talent and opportunity for all Americans is arguably more important than ever,” said Dr. Patrick J. Rottinghaus, Associate Professor at the University of Missouri’s College of Education and co-author of the research.

CJ Park, University of Missouri doctoral candidate and research co-author, said, “We’ve long grappled with a skills gap in key industries, and we also know that women and people of color are underrepresented in certain sectors of the labor market. The research suggests that men and women have equal abilities to compete for and excel in some of the most high-demand, high-wage jobs available – and it’s up to us to make sure that we’re leveraging the right tools to direct that talent.” 

The University of Missouri compared 7,222 (3,619 females and 3,603 males) high school students’ self-reported interests and assessed aptitudes in four industries: manufacturing, computer technology, construction and healthcare (direct patient care and technical). Aptitude assessments were conducted by YouScience, developer of a revolutionary aptitude and career discovery tool used by more than 7,000 school districts nationwide.

According to the university research findings, interests are influenced by perceived “societal norms” that limit the scope of students’ career exploration. While interests vary by gender, both males and females demonstrate equal aptitudes for careers in all four industries.

  • Male students demonstrated a greater interest in manufacturing, construction, computer technology and tech-focused health care jobs, while females were more likely to demonstrate a high interest in patient-centered health care.
  • However, when compared to interest assessments, aptitude assessments helped identify seven times more female students with the natural talent for careers in construction and technical health care, four times more females with the talent for jobs in the manufacturing field, and twice as many females with the talent for jobs in computer technology.
  • Aptitude assessments also helped identify nearly twice as many males with the talent to pursue jobs in patient-centered health care.

“Due to traditional societal norms and gender stereotypes, young women have historically not been as likely to pursue STEM careers,” Rottinghaus said in an article. “But when we looked at their aptitude scores, the system would often indicate many of the young women surveyed have the aptitude to be successful in these areas. We can also help men consider more nontraditional fields, too, such as nursing or health care, which tend to be predominantly female.”

As the research concludes, “In a post-COVID world, there will be slack in the labor markets. As a result, the risk increases for students as they move from educational pathways to careers. Without making intentional decisions to align aptitudes, interests, educational pathways, and labor market needs, students could suffer real economic harm.”

Philip Hardin, YouScience co-founder and CFO, said, “At YouScience, we see every day that the right tools can open students’ eyes to career opportunities that they’d never considered or never even heard of. But once a young person has an opportunity to explore what they’re good at and understand how their individual talents fit in the workforce, it’s a total gamechanger. We’re grateful to the University of Missouri for partnering with us on this important research and hope it will help schools reimagine their approach to career guidance and help jobseekers, both present and future question what is and what could be.”


To learn more about YouScience, visit www.youscience.com.