About 40 percent of employers worldwide find it difficult to recruit people with the skills needed for available positions, a survey by the United Nations-affiliated International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity found. This gap is likely to widen without systematic shifts in education. Two billion jobs, equal to one half of all employment in the world, are expected to disappear by 2030 due to automation.

In parallel, enrollment rates at the post-secondary level have climbed dramatically in emerging markets. Half the population of Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole now has some post-secondary education, according to the World Bank. In sub-Saharan Africa, the figure is nine percent and rising.

Graduates may complete rigorous course loads and receive their degrees in employment-friendly fields such as business, economics, and healthcare, but they’re often missing the very skills needed to succeed in a fast-changing, information-based economy. This mismatch between skills that students acquire and those that employers require can frustrate ambitions and inhibit economic potential.

The World Economic Forum and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development indicate that changes in labor markets in wealthy economies caused by declining industrial bases, increased automation, and greater demand for digitally-based work have been spreading to middle and lower-income countries. Whole categories of agricultural, service, and manufacturing jobs are disappearing due to the spread of robotics and labor-saving software programs. These trends are gradually transforming work life and will continue to remake economies relying more and more on digital technologies.

Reskilling and upskilling – teaching new skills and upgrading the skills that workers already have – can solve some of the inevitable job displacement as technology transforms labor markets. Universities and technical colleges can play another role in meeting changing labor market demands, however. These institutions can recalibrate their curriculums so graduates enter the world as both productive and employable, with both the technical knowledge and employability skills needed to thrive.

As the pipeline of graduates grows and the nature of work changes, tertiary education can evolve to ensure that young graduates are equipped with relevant market skills that blend knowledge and technical know-how with employability. Universities can better align skills with the shifting demands of the job market, to both improve job prospects for new graduates and create conditions for economic growth.

To help ease this transition in emerging markets, IFC has created Vitae, which offers a 360° view of how well an institution is set up to deliver on employability outcomes for its students. The assessment is a learning tool that provides institutional management with an evaluation against benchmarks and recommendations on how to meaningfully improve processes and implement best practices for employability. IFC also supports institutions through training and hands-on advisory services. Find out more.