4 ways to bridge the global skills gap


Young people around the world are already experiencing historic unemployment levels and have lost even more of their already precarious position in the past three years. And now the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and global automation are making it extreme and increasingly difficult for millions of the world’s 1.3 billion young people to find work.

To understand the crisis, consider these facts:

While the youth population (15 to 24 years old) grew by 30% between 1999 and 2019, their employment rate decreased by about 12% worldwide. Jobs traditionally held by young people are at risk of being automated, at an accelerating pace; in a recent survey, 36% of CEOs said they focused on improving productivity through technology and automation, a number more than double the number of CEOs who said the same in 2016. Ages 18 to 24 stopped working during the pandemic, and many others had their hours and income reduced, probably because they worked in hard-hit sectors.

While the global challenge of acquiring skills for young people varies by country, region or place, there are four key actions governments and businesses can take to reverse the trend. And turning around is important; this plight threatens social stability and economic recovery in many parts of the world. This is what organizations, governments and multilateral organizations can do to tackle this crisis.

Understand the skills your organization or country needs.

Ask yourself (or your team) the following questions: What specific skills does your country or company need to have employees? By answering this question, you can build a pipeline of workers suitably trained for the future job market that will require both digital and hands-on skills, be it regular work, entrepreneurial ventures, or the gig economy.

The best way to answer this is with a national skills map, or an overview of all the skills that future employees will need, not only technical and job-specific skills, but also emotional, relational and communication skills. The cards should contain standardized definitions and methods that measure whether a skill has been learned or not.

For example, Singapore’s SkillsFuture program provides opportunities for all learners, from undergraduates to experienced careerists, to identify the right skills for their chosen profession and access the resources needed to master those skills. It is aimed at all Singaporeans and promotes lifelong learning and skills development. Germany’s Skills Anticipation Program uses “skills intelligence” to predict what the future job market might look like, even providing forward-looking career guidance to job seekers and insight to educators into what skills young people need as they prepare to enter the job market . The recently released LinkedIn Skills Graph represents a momentous, globally relevant step forward for skills identification and mapping.

These platforms are useful because they are based on a skills taxonomy, which lists and defines useful skills and ways to measure them; a skills map, outlining categories of jobs in industries of national importance, including SMEs, and their required skills; and a skills tracker, which helps identify education and training requirements and outlines how these skills can be acquired, both within the formal education system and through experiential learning. A global skills taxonomy, map and prediction engine for the skills that will be in high demand is a crucial next step for governments and employers – and indeed for the skills development and mobility of young people worldwide.

Take advantage of company training outside of companies.

Many companies have internal skills development platforms that help current employees acquire new skills. But what about their future employees?

By combining elements of top-notch business programs with a government-led national policy framework, stakeholders can collectively help build a high-quality national skills development program that is relevant to national and local populations, scales efficiently, and cannot be built from scratch. land must be built.

While it may seem difficult to convince a company to use their resources to educate the “general public”, examples are already out there. Think of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Learn. AWS provides students and military veterans access to cloud career skills training and outlines technology career paths through the AWS Educate initiative, and the job board connects participants with technology jobs at Amazon and other companies. Microsoft Learn is an online training platform that helps any interested person gain proficiency in a range of Microsoft technologies. Yuwaah (Generation Unlimited India) and PwC are developing a “platform of platforms” that will merge existing platforms that provide digital upskilling opportunities to connect young people with options for education, career guidance and ultimately jobs. The partnership aims to transform education, skills and employment for 300 million young people in India by 2030.

These platforms can contain national skill maps and become an important addition to skills training delivered in schools. As a model, a government could test such a trajectory with a national industry growth sector, creating a business case for a broader range of national upskilling trajectories across multiple sectors. National governments, especially ministries of education, labour, skills and youth, can be key stakeholders in the creation of these maps, with direct and significant input from national and local businesses, especially SMEs; education and industry associations; educators; and career guidance professionals.

National governments, especially Ministries of Labour, Youth, Technology and Skills, may be best suited to coordinate this effort with major national and multinational corporations operating within their borders.

Build a national trust for digital skills verification.

In addition to interviews, aptitude tests, and online portfolios, employers lack a standardized, low-cost way to verify the skills new hires claim to have — especially for graduates of schools, universities and colleges and vocational training programs that lie outside a very small core of 100 or so trusted “top universities” worldwide.

By creating a global or national verification system, employers can identify the most useful skills for their current employees and set up new hires for success by identifying additional training to consider. While micro-credentials and digital badges are a start, a national system built on a technology platform such as a distributed ledger or Blockchain will help employees track and store their skills and provide employers with a trusted and easily verifiable assessment method.

We already have a few budding examples. Founded and led by universities with expertise in verifiable digital credential design, the Digital Credentials Consortium (DCC) aims to “create a trusted, distributed, and shared infrastructure that becomes the standard for issuing, storing, displaying, and verifying digital academic credentials.” While this particular program is a platform to verify tertiary academic qualifications, the founders of the DCC recognize that it is best viewed as part of a larger system linking post-secondary and lifelong learning and all for skills records relevant qualifications of the individual throughout their education.

Likewise, the Youth Agency Marketplace (Yoma) is a digital ecosystem platform developed by Generation Unlimited and partners (UNICEF, GIZ and Botnar) where young people can participate in social impact initiatives related to skills and economic opportunities. The initiatives align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and create a youth marketplace for skills, digital profiles, employment and entrepreneurship. Public and private partner organizations use the site to get in touch with young people, support them and offer them opportunities. A verifiable digital resume is recorded, with certified credentials stored in a distributed ledger, and users are encouraged with rewards and incentives.

Such platforms can and should be connected to a national skills map framework, so that young people can make the most of the Personal Learning Cloud, and especially the business training resources available to them.

Develop a regional and/or national skills forum to improve information sharing between all key stakeholders.

Sharing information on skills development between regions and even countries is an important part of solving the youth unemployment crisis. Why? Because the half-life of skills is short and getting shorter and shorter. We need a forecasting engine that is in high demand, crossing regions and industries. Employers, educators, government officials and professional associations need to work together to address labor market trends, identify skills gaps and support the programs young people need to thrive.

For example, Bangladesh’s National Intelligence for Skills, Education, Employment & Entrepreneurship (NISE3) gathers government stakeholders, skills service providers, industry associations, industry leaders and others to facilitate the sharing of skills development information and data. Here key stakeholders can share information and best practices and collect data related to upskilling and reskilling, and connect skills providers with industries. The platform facilitates job search by, among other things, providing access to career guidance and guidance and information on entrepreneurship, training and apprenticeships.

A global agenda

The global youth employment crisis has implications for social stability and equality unlike anything we have experienced in our history; 1.3 billion young people – the largest young generation in the history of the planet – are about to try to enter the job market.

Philanthropic investments and layouts aimed at strengthening institutional education help, but do not address the core problem of understanding, access and trust. These are informational problems that can be addressed through concerted, large-scale investments in skills mapping, measurement, verification, forecasting and development. The resources to build out these platforms are all in place and a lot of promising work has already started. But it is pursued in separate spheres, niches, geographies and industries. It is imperative to bring them together and build global confidence in skills.

This post 4 ways to bridge the global skills gap was original published at “https://hbr.org/2022/03/4-ways-to-bridge-the-global-skills-gap”


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