The education-to-employment gap is a growing challenge for both jobseekers and employers. Technology, automation and artificial intelligence are reshaping the labor market.
Technology has eliminated many traditional entry-level positions, and new entry-level positions require workers to adeptly utilize technology, think critically and empathize effectively to solve problems and meet business goals. The new entry points to work also require the initiative and agility to own one’s professional development and to learn quickly as markets, technologies and business needs change rapidly.
Schools and colleges have not kept pace with the changing nature of work. The business sector, like the education sector, is based on models of recruitment and training that often privilege credentials over the skill competencies needed to thrive in work. In the past, content-focused, routinized learning built a container of essential knowledge, work habits and credentials to sustain a career. There was a relative symmetry between the routines of earning merit in school and advancing in the workplace.
Today, schools alone are not equipped to help students build the container of pivot skills and range competencies necessary to navigate the ever-transitioning world of work. Similarly, corporations alone cannot recruit or create the workers necessary to fill the skill gap. There is a clear business case for solving this problem. Smart corporations with a need for future talent will see this as an opportunity. Companies can provide human, technical and intellectual capital to help schools prepare students to be assets in the workplace. Here are some examples.
- Partner with schools to facilitate internships, apprenticeships and other substantive work exposures and experiences that help students develop a generalist’s repertoire of soft skills, problem-solving skills and agility mindsets that employees need to function effectively in rapidly changing business landscapes.
Exposure needs to start in high school. Competencies build over time, and that is why at Nazareth Prep, a Catholic high school with a majority Black student body, all students intern weekly each school year. Students work in health care, manufacturing, law, finance, construction and IT with a company mentor and often work through departmental rotations. Many become summer workers and full-time employees after graduation. This program and ones like it are the prototype for longer and wider recruitment strategies for smart businesses.
- Identify and communicate the new entry-level skills for your business. What do professionalism, creativity, collaboration, time management and critical thinking look like in your business? This information can be shared through mentorship, career talks and co-curricular programming, and student competitions.
- Share your business’s object lessons to help students overcome the character skill gap. What lessons reveal the values and character of highly effective, mission-aligned employees in your business and how they grew with challenges? The education to employment skill gap is also a character gap. Character is the anchor for the soft and hard skills that employees need to be resilient in 21st century work. Character competencies, like skill competencies, are developed through engagement over time.
We hope to see more smart companies invest deeply in education as a means to close the opportunity gap, strengthen the future workforce and help graduates succeed. ●
Dr. Stacy Tweedy is Head of School and Executive Vice President of Educational Services at Nazareth Prep