With the rise of the digital economy and Industry 4.0, companies in every sector are gearing up to meet the demands of a quickly shifting technological playing field. The problem is, many industries are struggling to hire workers who have the skills needed to implement and operate these new technologies.
Our own research found that only a fifth of people consider their education from their college major to be translatable to their current field, and another recent survey edX conducted found that more than one-third (37%) of people have experienced a lack of proficiency in at least one new skill area or subject area in a current or past job. This skills gap is plaguing organizations across industries, but economists and scholars alike are struggling to come up with a solution.
Data Sciences Contain Largest Skills Gap, Business and Soft Skills Follow
Our survey respondents reported the biggest skills gap in the data sciences—a skill set that, like data-driven approaches to all aspects of business, becomes more and more prominent. With this change in the workplace, it is especially concerning that we found 39% of people feel less than proficient in data skills, with an emphasis on analytics and computer science. Related to this, a quarter (24%) have had to ask an outside resource, such as a significant other, child, or grandchild, how to work with a technology that their company uses.
The second skill set with the largest gap is business skills and soft skills, including project management and leadership, with over a third of consumers feeling that they are lacking in this area.
Who Should Prepare Workers?
So, the question becomes, whose responsibility is it to ensure that workers are prepared for the jobs of the future? Our findings were inconclusive on that—respondents are split on who should be responsible for making sure that they are prepared with the right skills. Forty-one percent feel it is an individual’s responsibility; 33% feel it’s an employer’s responsibility; 16% believe it’s higher education’s responsibility; and 9% believe it’s up to the government.
Despite the fact that a third of consumers think that employers should be responsible for leading the reskilling process, almost half (40%) of consumers don’t feel comfortable asking their employer for help with paying for a learning solution. This tells us that employers aren’t doing enough to show employees that they want to invest in their skill sets and help them succeed. This disconnect creates a problematic cycle, but it’s something that workplace leaders have the power to change—and it starts with how they approach training and development.
Combating the Skills Gap
In order to combat the skills gap and change the employee attitude toward reskilling, enterprise leaders and managers should look at training and development through a corporate social responsibility (CSR) lens. Organizations have the power to be the driving pressure toward a collective solution for the future of education in the workplace by empowering their workers with opportunities for continuing their education, and it is becoming both a moral and an economic imperative for companies to implement education programs to help safeguard the future labor force. Especially as corporate America grapples with the impact of automation and artificial intelligence (AI), companies have a responsibility to step in and arm their employees with the tools they need to reskill and upskill in the modern workplace.
This means a focus on removing the barriers—time, cost, and location—to high-quality education in in-demand fields. We’re seeing that more flexible methods of education are becoming more widely accepted, such as online credential and degree programs. In fact, receiving a certificate after completing an online program in a specific field can be just as valuable as pursuing an on-campus degree. Our research found that respondents reported the same perception of competence regardless of whether a professional has a full degree or a microcredential on his or her résumé.
The future of the workforce is in the hands of employers across industries—and by viewing training and development as a CSR initiative and investing in flexible pathways that make it easier for individuals to pursue their lifelong learning journeys, corporations will win the talent war and empower their local communities in tandem.
Adam Medros is the President and COO at edX.
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