The current model for educating and preparing our workforce is broken. Today's rapidly changing economies require something different.
I recently spent six months in the unemployment lines of America to understand why workers, particularly young people, struggle to find jobs. While talking to the unemployed, I witnessed first-hand the loneliness and demoralizing nature of the job search. Jobseekers apply for countless jobs but are constantly turned away as unqualified. Moreover, jobseekers never receive feedback on what skills they need, and so never get a chance to improve. As a result, the vicious job search cycle continues.
However, at the end of my time in the unemployment lines, I discovered that the skills gap is actually an information gap. Workers don't know what skills employers need, so are unsure what to learn to make themselves employable. The information gap persists because existing education providers don't give workers the skills employers actually need. Until we fix this, we will continue to have a workforce that is ill-prepared for the jobs of the 21st century. And the information gap is only getting larger. The top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 did not even exist in 2004, and 65 percent of today's grade school kids will end up at jobs that haven't even been invented yet.
Only a new paradigm in workforce training can solve this.
I envision a world where millions of workers leverage technology to train themselves with job specific skills for open positions. In this new model, there will be three essential factors for the training: it will be employer-driven, responsive and on-demand.
- Employer-driven: Training content will be developed in close partnership with employers so that it always matches the specific requirements of a job. This means that hiring managers, trainers, and employees will determine curricula rather than educators alone.
- Responsive: Employers will provide real-time, continuous feedback and hiring data to educators so that they can update the training. That way, the curricula will remain responsive to labour market changes as employers highlight which new skills are needed and indicate which skills are no longer relevant.
- On-Demand: Training will be linked directly to open job posts online so that can workers can prepare themselves in response to an opening when it is posted by an employer. With workers completing online training modules prior to applying, employers will have access to qualified workers when they need them.
In this new training paradigm, workers will be empowered to learn practical skills for open jobs at no cost. Employers will gain access to a deep pool of custom-trained workers, available whenever they need them. Some innovative employers like Staples, AT&T and Gap Inc. are already doing this.
In the future, we will move closer to an education model that is truly responsive to the needs of employers, jobseekers and the international labour market. Only then will we solve the skills gap and the information gap and reduce the burden of unemployment.
Let the change begin.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and The World Economic Forum to mark the Forum's Annual Meeting 2015 (in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, Jan. 21-24). The Forum's Technology Pioneers program recognizes young companies from around the world that are involved in the design, development and deployment of new technologies that have the potential of significantly impacting the way business and society operate. Read all the posts in the series here.