4 Ways Other Countries Are Closing The Skills Gap

Although unemployment in the U.S. has been steadily decreasing, taking a closer look at the numbers uncovers a scary gap: of the 9.5 million unemployed, there are still 4.6 million jobs open.

This is largely driven by a growing skills gap we are facing in trade professions. According to a study by CareerBuilder, 54 percent of employers are sitting with open positions that they can’t find qualified candidates for.

This challenge isn’t just plaguing the U.S., though. According to a study by McKinsey, one-third of employers across Europe have said that lack of skills is causing major business problems.

As a result, countries around the world are taking a close look at how they can close this gap. Here are some of the things they are doing:

Apprenticeship Programs

An article in The New York Times cites that 868,700 people in Britain completed apprenticeships last year, which was up 77 percent from three years ago. About half of the programs were designed for 16 to 18-year-olds.

The challenge in finding individuals to take part in these programs was a result of the negative reputation that apprenticeships have. During the peak of apprenticeship in the mid-19th century, programs expanded from artisan trade to industries like engineering and manufacturing. However, the introduction of accessible full-time education began to paint the picture of apprentices as people who didn’t have the intelligence or resources to go to a real university.

Germany, however, still places a lot of emphasis on apprenticeship programs. The country requires every trade worker to undergo a three-year apprenticeship. According to an article in NPR, they work for three or four days a week at a company and then go to school for the other one or two days. The Chamber of Commerce awards the certificates and set standards for what is taught in these vocational schools.

With the government involved, companies are guaranteed a fully skilled and qualified trade worker. This in turn increases the validity and value of these workers.

Equal Importance: College Education and Skilled Workers

Today’s society — in the U.S. and abroad — views a full-time college education as a much more acceptable and even required step to take before entering the workforce. This has greatly hurt the skilled trades area, which is generally not part of a four-year college degree.

However, with very successful entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg making bold statements that college isn’t necessary to be successful, young students are starting to change their mindset on the importance of a college degree. This is great news for the skilled trade professions.

Germany has done a great job assimilating trade skills within their culture and placing validity on this type of education with strong apprenticeship programs. Additionally, companies in countries like Vietnam are training individuals who feel these trade skills will provide a good future.

Similar to the importance that has been put on STEM degrees in the U.S., companies need to play a role in bringing more validity and importance to skilled trades. Talk to students about the need for individuals with these skills and the type of career path they could have with it. For students, not having to leave college tens of thousands of dollars in debt can sound very appealing if they know they can still have a good future ahead of them.

Open Discussions to Close the Gap

According to the McKinsey report, employers, education providers and young people do not understand each other and operate in “parallel universes.”

To put things into perspective, in Europe, 74 percent of education providers were confident that their graduates were prepared for work, but only 38 percent of youth and 35 percent of employers agreed. Germany and the United Kingdom reported that most employers communicated with education providers at least several times a year, but only employers in Spain reported their interaction with education providers were effective.

Within the U.S., employers must start having much more open dialogue with those responsible for educating youth and the youth themselves. Everyone should understand the needs of today’s workforce so society can work toward the same goals. Getting students involved in programs in high school or college to get them excited about certain areas of work is a great way to do this and to help them understand what skills are truly needed in the professional world.

Company-Run Universities

Company universities not only allow companies to align their employees with their strategic vision and initiatives, but they can also ensure all employees have all the appropriate training needed. Putting more emphasis on this type of education that more closely involves the business sector can help to shorten the skills gap and train young professionals on these trade skills.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Vietnam-based IT company FPT introduced the FPT University, which has expanded its facilities to become the country’s biggest IT university. The university has been steadily growing as more students come in with a career aspiration to be an IT technician because it is seen as a stable career path. The country’s IT infrastructure continues to grow, and U.S. tech companies like IBM and Apple have started to partner with companies like FPT to recruit their skilled workers.

The skills gap is not only affecting our country, but the entire world. With our ability to connect to anyone anywhere, we need to begin learning from each other’s successes and failures and finding a solution to this problem. If we don’t, we could face a very unstable and uncertain future.

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(About the Author: Josh Tolan is the CEO of Spark Hire, a video interview solution used by more than 2,000 companies across the globe. Learn more about using video interviewing to jump the skills gap and connect with Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter.)

photo credit: Βethan via photopin cc

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