Two worlds once quite separate, recruitment and higher education, are increasingly converging. While this trend was evident prior to COVID, the pandemic has significantly accelerated it. A recent webinar I moderated on this topic for IFC got me reflecting on some tectonic shifts I believe we all — educators, employers, students, educational technology developers, and investors — need to get a firmer grasp of to be able to effectively address.
First and foremost, there is a very big skills mismatch in job markets. In part this is because the nature of work is changing so fast, especially in the digital universe. There was a time not that long ago when digital skills were predominantly needed by people working in the tech sector. That has changed utterly, especially with COVID, and now sectors like retail and banking need a greater emphasis on digital skills at various levels in their workforce.
Educators have been aware of the skills gap for some time and have been trying to fix this. One thing they are doing is making it easier for people to gain the necessary skills. Education institutions are placing some excellent content online. The crux of the problem is less that we lack jobs-relevant educational content but rather that we need to better connect jobseekers with the skills and training opportunities they need to develop professionally.
Social media platforms like LinkedIn that have evolved into talent management organizations provide a treasure trove of data on which skills people have, which ones they lack, and what employers want. Artificial intelligence is beginning to be harnessed to connect these dots but there is much room for improvement in identifying and bridging skills gaps.
Two phenomena — the gig economy and remote work — that started pre-COVID have been further cemented by the pandemic. More workers are switching from having a long-term, single employer to working with multiple employers and doing project-based work, in the so-called “Gig” economy. Though there are some cultural and regional differences, they are blunting.
While the risk of brain drain remains in the global labor market, it has morphed in form somewhat. In the tech world, for instance, the risk is that tech giants, enjoying greater financial resources, will poach top talent from small and medium-sized enterprises. Workers understandably tend to gravitate toward better-compensated jobs, so this is something we need to start thinking about, in particular as we analyze trends in social mobility.
Something else new: geographical time zones are a growing consideration in employment choices. For example, if you are a Latin America-based remote worker, it can be easier to connect in real time with colleagues in other parts of the Americas, or even in Europe, compared with colleagues in East Asia.
Attaching a monetary value to skills is becoming more possible, thanks to sophisticated data analysis by online recruitment firms, to attach a hard dollar value to acquiring a skill in terms of a jobseeker’s salary expectations. Such information can really help jobseekers by enabling them to make better informed decisions on what kind of skills training they undertake, a process that can otherwise be dizzying and emotionally exhausting. Revelo in Brazil, an IFC client, has done a fantastic job on this front.
All this has enormous relevance to traditional higher education institutions. More and more, they understand that they need to place greater emphasis on employability and to equip graduates both with a degree and the skills they need to hit the ground running in the world of work. Many higher education institutions in emerging markets have already been doing this quite well — it’s their counterparts in advanced economies that often are the ones who need to catch up.
This story is adapted from an article first published on the LinkedIn page of Alejandro Caballero, a principal education specialist at IFC.