The Disconnect Between Education and Employer Needs

Several years ago I served on an advisory board for a local educational system on what business were looking for in students. They perceived a disconnect between what high school students were learning and what businesses needed. It was a minor program directed at things like what type of software students on the business track should be using. It was minor because that was before the economy tanked and all the kids could get jobs because employers needed bodies. Today, however, we all know that workers are plentiful, but what is missing is the skill sets that are needed. There appears to be a major disconnect between education and employer needs that is being missed.
The Herman Trend Report reports “In spite of persistently high unemployment levels, employers around the world are having increasing difficulty recruiting the people they need. Just last week, ManpowerGroup released the results of its sixth-annual Talent Shortage Survey.” This is a Global Survey which found that 34% of employers around the world are having a hard time filling positions. However, some countries are having more difficulty than other. “…having the most difficulty finding the right people to fill jobs in Japan (80 percent), India (67 percent), and Brazil (57 percent). In the US, 52 percent of employers are experiencing difficulty filling mission-critical positions within their organizations.
There are two dynamics going on here. Due to the downturn in the economy there are a large number of “experienced” workers looking for work. The problem is that these workers do not have the skill sets that are needed in today’s jobs. Technology skills needs have outstripped workers keeping their skills current. (Which is not really not difficult to do, most people in the US make little or no attempt to personally keep their skills current.)
The second dynamic is that children are not coming out of educational programs, be they college or high school or the equivalent, prepared to take on roles in companies. There is no connection between the two largest segments of society designed to make the world a better place to live. As the Manpower report says “A mere 6 percent of employers is working more closely with educational institutions to create curriculums that close knowledge gaps. This small percentage represents a major missed opportunity for employers, especially now when many colleges and universities are seeking this partnership.”
There appears to be resistance on both sides, probably more so on the business side, but also on the educational side. Businesses, coming out of the ressession don’t want to spend money. The report says “Moreover, about three-quarters of employers globally cite a lack of experience, skills, or knowledge as the primary reason for their difficulty recruiting. However, only one in five employers is concentrating on training and development to fill the gap.” Did you read that? Only ONE IN FIVE! I think that is a problem.
I realize that the educational institutions are not set up to supply businesses with workers, but they need to be doing a better job in some aspects. And businesses need to do a better job of making sure they educate their workers. Obviously the days of “the strength of your arm and the sweat of your brow” are over with. If we want people with technical skills then we need to do something to prepare them. There are many trade schools that are willing help train people that we should be making good use of.
Naturally, a third party in this is the worker. Peter Drucker says that ultimately the responsibility for someone’s skill level is that of the worker. But I will write more on this later.

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