The Enternships.com founder writes for us on tackling youth employment
How do we prepare young people for the world of work? There are many different topics being explored at this year’s World Economic Forum, but it’s this question that fascinates me the most.
I was lucky enough to be taking part in the Reshaping Education panel at snowy Davos yesterday. It was wonderful to hear some of the leading experts in the field of education and employment give their opinions of the current youth unemployment crisis, determined to find real, practical solutions for our ‘lost’ generation of graduates.
“Soft skills are the hard skills to find” – the words of Jamie McAuliffe, CEO of Education for Employment seemed to resonate throughout the session; the idea that currently, the training we are given in higher education does not match with the needs of the wider working world. It’s a sentiment I hear again and again from the employers we work with at Enternships, and one that seems to be gathering a lot of momentum across graduate employment in general.
In the latest McKinsey report “Education to employment: getting Europe’s youth to work”, this mismatch is made all the more clear, with 74% of all education practitioners believing education prepares graduates for work, versus only 35% of employers and 38% of graduates agreeing.
Now, it’s all very well pointing out the fact that our old-school methods of education are not translating to valuable graduate talent – but highlighting the problem is, of course, not the same as offering a solution. Closing the gap between education is no easy task, and it was wonderful to be able to get direct insights from people who, like me, are determined to tackle the issue head on.
Yesterday’s session focused on two themes in particular – the first being Innovations In Education, which was addressed by Zach Sims (CEO of the wonderful CodeAcademy) and Bhavneet Singh (CEO of Pearson English and Informal Learning).
Unsurprisingly, the recent boom of MOOCs and online learning was at the forefront – with the emphasis on how new technology can make learning universal, inexpensive and constantly re-evaluated and improved.
With higher education costs getting higher and higher, and the real value of a degree education currently under scrutiny, it’s fascinating to open out the options currently at our disposal in terms of education.
It seems that the power is shifting away from the big institutions, and is increasingly in the hands of the individual. Access to learning materials and methods of skill-building will only grow as education technology becomes more sophisticated, and the democratisation of learning capacities is something to be very excited about.
But what skills should our talented youth be learning? Our second theme, Future Skills Needed By Young People, addressed by Jamie and Vikas Pota (CEO of Varkey GEMS Foundation, the philanthropic arm of GEMS Education who run a network schools worldwide) centred on this question, arguing that we cannot think of education as an isolated practice, but one that must go hand in hand with what skills are demanded by the jobs market.
The European Commission has estimated that by 2015 there will be around 900,000 unfilled ICT related jobs, simply because our young people are not being presented with the option to learn these skills early on.
Careers advice in schools is essentially a thing of the past (it was removed as compulsory in 2011), which in my opinion is a real tragedy.
How are young people supposed to choose their educational path when they have no idea what awaits them after full-time education has finished?
But alongside genuinely encouraging words about the new learning weapons blossoming online for anyone and everyone who would like to build their digital skillsets, I couldn’t help but come back again and again to Jamie McAuliffe’s words: “Soft skills are the hard skills to find”.
It’s vital to remember that as well as tackling the new world of desirable skills, we keep at the forefront the vitality of on-the-job learning, of experiential learning, of the skills that cannot be taught on a screen.
For me, it is very clear that we need to build a new eco-system of skills learning, that takes into account the current gaps in our traditional education system, the leap from education to employment, the skills we can learn online and the skills we need to be taught on our feet.
We need to be aware of what employers are looking for, what industries prefer which skills, and how – with this knowledge – we can guide every individual towards the career they dream of.
For me, this is a move that cannot come quickly enough, and I am proud to say that at Enternships, we are building a platform that we hope will address exactly this.
But of course, change cannot come from one company, one session, one conversation alone. Hopefully, these are the first steps towards a future where graduates and students do not feel confused, paralysed or panicked about being released from education.
They deserve better than this, and so do the companies hiring them.
Rajeeb Dey is CEO and founder of Enternships.com. Follow him @rajdey