The global skills crisis is making mainstream headlines and it’s about time. Reskilling has been a perpetual need - economies evolve and, by definition, that means there will always be a gap between workforce preparedness and market needs. The difference now is the pace of change.
Even before Covid-19, some experts had been urging us to prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the need for massive reskilling. In January, the World Economic Forum stated that by 2022 alone, 75 million jobs will probably be displaced around the world while almost twice this number will spring up in new industries. Now, with Covid-19, the equivalent of 195 million jobs worldwide will get displaced in this quarter alone, according to the UN’s labour body. Speaking of the United States, Ginni Rometty, prior CEO of IBM says, “Before we had 7 million job openings. Well now we have so many people that are unemployed, that in many ways when you throw a deck of cards into the air, everyone’s not gonna land back in the same spot”. Many of these workers will need a new home - and new skills.
While I hear an active debate on predicting the jobs and skills of the future, it’s clear these are moving targets. So irrespective of specific jobs and skills, how can we devise a system that can continually adapt to market changes and deliver skilling rapidly and at scale?
With a paradigm shift. We need to address the root cause of the demand-supply mismatch by inverting the current education to industry equation, where students (supply) seek out employers (demand) and instead create an ecosystem where demand nurtures supply. Today’s education model, that measures success in terms of hours/seats filled/test scores, is detached from employer needs and frequently delivers training that is out of sync with the market. Case in point, for a decade it’s been well known that only 15 percent of India’s engineering graduates are employable - the rest have the certificate but can’t do the job. In 2019, the United States Labour Department cited that job openings stood at 7.3 million - the highest since 2000 and far greater than the number of unemployed which stood at 6.3 million - indicating a skills gap.
A continuous, employer-led approach is more in sync with today’s pace of change where workers typically need upskilling or reskilling within 3-5 years even within the same job. There will always be skills and jobs we don’t anticipate - for example, app developers, data scientists and social media managers didn’t exist a decade ago.
In the present model, workers get trained and then embark on a lifelong career. In the new employer-led model, workers first find a job and then get (re)skilled - rinse and repeat. This certainly addresses irrelevance - employers are the first to know of a skills gap and can articulate it in terms of on-the-ground capabilities, not certificates. They are therefore best positioned to deliver training that’s relevant to real jobs.
Another advantage of this new model is that skilling can reach all types of workers within an enterprise: blue, grey, and white collar. No longer are we limited to the floor and ceiling associated with traditional training. An “all-collar” approach means a path to upward mobility.
A Big 4 Tech company BigSpring is engaged with faces up to a 12-month lag between a new feature release and the hundreds of thousands of relevant stakeholders who need to use that feature understanding it. The company gave a resounding endorsement for our platform as one that, in their words, “enables rapid and continuous deployment of relevant skills at scale”. A future “enterprise university” model will ensure the right skills are delivered to the right people at the right time. And digital will be at the center of this new approach.