High youth unemployment vs. a shortage of applicants with critical skills

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While 75 million young people are unemployed all over the world, employers are still finding it difficult to fill their entry level positions. In addition, estimates say that there are three times more underemployed graduates than unemployed. This means that there are hundreds of millions of young, unexplored talents, waiting put their skills to use. At first sight, these two problems seem to be the solution for each other, but in reality it isn’t that simple. Why aren’t these problems connecting and solving each other?

Many stakeholders are working around the same problems. Educators trying to give their students the best possible education, employers headhunting youth with the needed skills or creating graduate programs to train people for their needs, and governments trying to come up with effective initiatives to fight youth unemployment. The problem is, that these stakeholders do not realize they are all working on the same problem, and should see the whole thing as one process or system. It is about continuity, one continuous line of progression, instead of three parallel lines that do not meet at any point. However, currently the educators, employers, and youth all have a different understanding of the same problem.

To be more concrete, there seems to be a general lack of understanding. 1/3 of employers never communicate with education providers whereas more than 1/3 of educators are unable to estimate the number of their graduates that find jobs. On the other hand, less than half of youth know which fields of study lead to occupations that have available positions and a good salary. The problem seems to arise in the phase where young people are trying to move from education to employment, as this should be the point where the youth looking for jobs are matched with the employers looking for employees.

The problem is, according to employers, that the recent graduates do not possess the needed skills for the job market. 40% of employers say the main reason why they don’t fill their entry-level positions is the lack of critical skills. The large majority (70%) would even be willing to pay significantly more to find the needed candidates. This idea seems to be shared by the youth – about half of them feel their higher education has not helped them to get employed.

To find a solution to the problem, educators need to enter the world of the employers and employers need to enter the world of the educators. There needs to be clear cooperation between the two, so that the youth will learn the skills they need to succeed at work. Educators also need to take more responsibility over their graduates finding jobs, and employers should engage more with the educators. The youth also needs support to be aware of the job market when making a decision of which major to study, and learn where to find job opportunities. Cooperation, thus, is the key.


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