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Addressing the Global Issue of Skilling – Employability vs Unemployment

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Government, Academic Institutions and Private Companies to Forge Partnerships

One of the biggest challenges countries and businesses face globally is the availability of skilled resources. Is this because of the surge in demand due to economic development or the deficit between employment and employability? Perhaps it may be both. While more new jobs are created requiring skilled resources, there is also a severe deficit in the availability of skilled resources across most domains. Interestingly, this is common across all categories, whether desk-based executive or technical jobs. Despite high unemployment figures globally, there is still a high demand for skills-based jobs. In this article, I delve into the skills-based jobs scenario with a focus on technical skills jobs at the executive levels and vocational courses-based jobs that are usually opted after school education.

Indeed, the skilling issue is huge at field-level jobs. As a stakeholder in the global facilities management business operating across the Middle East and South Asia, I see a massive problem in field-based roles worldwide. As per estimates, there are shortages, with numbers crossing over 30 million in Europe and the USA alone. Apparently, there is a limited availability of workers with skills and capabilities. There are specific evident reasons for this. Besides a paradigm shift in career preferences, the gap between the rising demand and supply is due to a skills deficit. These jobs need apt skills as workplaces have transformed with new technologies, work automation platforms and tools.

Businesses have long aspired to skills-based hiring, but promptly sourcing the right fit is arduous. Many believe this is like finding a needle in the haystack beyond practicality. The sluggish market sentiments are not helping with the cost; there are limitations that companies need to hire at an affordable price from the available pool, which adds to the challenges of recruiters. However, the fault lines exist in the entire ecosystem, from governments’ inaction and schooling to universities to businesses, each with its own failures or ineffective outcomes. They have their worlds, working in silos with little integration amongst them, keeping the requisite impact at bay. For instance, schools at secondary levels, not parents, should ideally help students assess their career goals and interests to ensure they choose the next level of education in terms of what they decide on their preferences between vocational education or career-linked courses, from science to liberal arts to general management. It needs to be aligned with their interest. The assessment criteria must ensure that this selection is based on the proper mentoring and supervision, a process that each student must undergo. It is important to note that I am focusing here on skilled jobs, not the semi-skilled job market, which has its dynamics.

A lot needs to change from vocational to college courses linked to the legacy education systems, as revolutionizing this can help all stakeholders: the government with low unemployment figures, companies with higher productivity and profits, and people with better and new job prospects. How does this approach need to work effectively? A new look and approach are required to cleanse the ecosystem, shirking traditional mindsets and streamlining partnerships between schools, colleges, government, businesses, and academic institutions.

The first step forward is overhauling the vocational education system and colleges to evolve skills-based education.

Post-school vocational education: Post the assessment criteria during the conclusion of school education, if the individual choice is for a vocational career, then it should be ensured by all concerned, be it the mentors, parents or the student itself, that the chosen institution must have a blended education system between vital theoretical concepts education supported by good coaching along with online access and a powerful practical knowledge mechanism with good infrastructure, tools and on the field training exposure.

Vocational institutes in many countries lack the requisite infrastructure, specific course content, and resources to deliver quality courses. There is limited skills-based content, especially integrating it with evolving practical situations, technologies, equipment, and processes, in addition to soft skills. It is, therefore, vital that vocational institutes transform to adapt to these new requirements. In essence, governmental support is needed as these changes require funding and stronger public-private partnerships. Also, these institutions must emphasize soft skills, such as language proficiency, reading and writing, critical thinking, computer skills, and adaptability, to integrate their development into education and training programs. These are musts that complement the skilled job profile.

Executive-level education: For executive-level technical jobs where bachelor’s degrees are required, such as engineering and other disciplines, the pre-assessment criteria must be based on technical, psychometric and theoretical alignments before entering the colleges and universities. Once joining the college, the curriculum must comprise the theory of the chosen course material in the first year of the course itself. The second-year course delivery must then expand to workplace-based knowledge integration, and the third year will focus only on developing the work-based skill integration along with professional and soft skills development.

As an employer with over one-third of the executive level workforce in a 28,000-employee organization operating in twenty-five countries, I can confidently speak on the issues and approaches above. These are the desired approaches that are much needed to address the colossal problem of skilling. By invoking the aforesaid educational renaissance, both colleges and students can immensely benefit, whilst companies could access fresh graduates who would be cheaper yet skilled to start with a head start on jobs.

There are indeed many credible analyses with white papers backed by governmental projects on this issue, but the results are not encouraging. I believe there is a need to push for a significant revolution in the current educational ecosystem to put skills-based hiring into practice with a cutting-edge strategy.

The following generic actions are needed across all stakeholders.

Governments need to implement policies that support lifelong learning, such as tax incentives for individuals and businesses that invest in education. It is a big issue to:

  • Ensure that skilling opportunities are available to underrepresented and disadvantaged groups.
  • Invest in infrastructure and support systems that make education and training accessible to people in remote or underserved areas.
  • Implement national skilling strategies that focus on critical sectors and future technologies.
  • Provide funding and support for skilling initiatives, especially in areas with high unemployment or significant skill shortages.

Businesses need to reach out and develop partnerships with educational institutions to ensure that curricula are aligned with current and future job market needs. They should also focus on the following:

  • Encourage internships, apprenticeships, and co-op programs that provide hands-on experience.
  • Shift towards skills-based hiring, where the focus is on the skills and competencies of candidates rather than purely on formal qualifications.
  • Encourage the use of competency frameworks and digital credentials to accurately represent an individual’s personal, professional, and functional capabilities.

Extensive use of technology: Utilize artificial intelligence and adaptive learning technologies to personalize education and training, making it more effective and accessible. Blended education needs powerful technology platforms to support online education.

Utilize data and analytics to guide skilling initiatives: Use data and analytics to identify current and emerging skill gaps and to inform the development of education and vocational programs.

To summarize, addressing the global skilling gap to meet employment needs involves a collaborative effort across multiple stakeholders, including governments, educational institutions, businesses, and individuals. Implementing these strategies requires a coordinated effort and commitment from all stakeholders. Working together makes it possible to create a more skilled workforce that can adapt to the changing demands of the global economy and effectively fulfil employment needs.

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