This story is the fifth in a six part editorial series exploring the balance between student learning and job skills. We’re asking leaders and thinkers in education and technology fields: Can America educate its way out of the skills gap? This series is brought to you by GOOD, with support from Apollo Group. Learn more about our efforts to bridge the skills gap at Coding for GOOD.
I often tell the story of how the idea for Black Girls CODE was born from my dual passions as a mother and a woman of color in engineering. These two realities allowed me to understand in a very intimate and personal way the struggles that women experience as both innovators and leaders in the still very male-dominated world of STEM. And they inspired me to ensure that the next generation of girls become STEM entrepreneurs or find jobs at the company of their choice.
When we talk about educating our way out of the skills gap, the discussion tends to focus on how we funnel more students into science or technology majors or helping current workers gain in-demand skills. But companies aren't just looking for employees with specific content knowledge and skills. They want folks with "soft skills"—emotional intelligence and social graces—too. So if we need to educate and train the next generation to be ready for the 21st century workforce, should colleges be emphasizing and giving grades on those too?
That's the plan at North Carolina's Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. According to Inside Higher Ed, the school intends to give "workplace readiness certificates" to students who demonstrate mastery of soft skills.
Spend some time talking to employers and eventually you'll hear the same story: they can't find qualified workers. According to a recent report from the McKinsey Center for Global Governance, 43 percent of employers say there simply aren't enough applicants with the knowledge and skills they need. At the same time, 75 million young people—a full 12.6 percent of youth around the globe—are unemployed. So, how do we solve this mismatch between workers' knowledge and skills, and employers' needs?
To find the answer, the report's authors analyzed over 100 innovative education-to-employment projects around the world and surveyed a diverse group of employers, education institutions, and young people in nine countries: Brazil, Germany, India, Mexico, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. They focused on three key areas related to this skills gap: enrolling in postsecondary education, building skills, and finding a job.