Career Learning for Adult Self-Sufficiency (CLASS)


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World Metrology Day is celebrated on May 20, the day the Treaty of the Meter, also known as the Metric Convention, was signed in 1875. The 17 signatories of the Convention, including the U.S., agreed to standardize weights and measures. More than 145 years later, many Americans are not fluent in the metric system. Should teaching future workers the metric system be a part of addressing the skills gap?


The National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST) emphasizes that being conversant in metric is essential for those seeking careers in science and engineering.  “Developing proficiency in metric measurements will prepare U.S. students to work with cutting-edge technology and develop innovative consumer products of the future.”  Employers such as Proctor & Gamble, Black & Decker, IBM, DuPont, Xerox, Kodak, and General Motors use the metric system (see Metric Pays Off).

Worldwide uniformity of measurement remains important for business process as well as safety.  Without standard measurement, big errors have occurred.  Consider:

?         An Air Canada Boeing 767 jet that ran out of fuel in mid-flight;

?         A 1999 loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter, a robotic space probe launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to study Martian climate and weather; and

?         Patients have received incorrect drug dosages.

Many people are unaware of the importance of measurement in our everyday lives. Measurement is an integral part of our high tech world, from GPS and smart phones to medical scanning and video gaming.  Check out the Modern Marvels of Metrology for careers that rely on metrology and more.

To address the skills gap and prepare a future workforce should the emphasis on American units of measurement continue? Do employers in healthcare and manufacturing ask youth service providers if their youth have metric skills?

Further Resources

For a short history of the use of the metric system of measurement in the U.S. see Toward a Metric America.

For teaching materials see Education Resources.