Future of work: Skills and job requirements in the 21st century

What educators and employers need to do

Both the education system and the labour market need to act and react in order to get a hold of this challenging situation. Educators need to realign the curriculum to teach students the skills that are demanded by the labour market. By creating a skills framework, educators can ensure that students are more flexible, mobile and better prepared for the labor market.

While historically, teaching was centred on core knowledge-creating subjects such as languages, maths, natural sciences, arts, music, history or geography, there are various new skill-centric approaches that educators need to consider.

Over 50 different 21st century skills that are being discussed in the book, ranging from problem-solving to digital literacy, adaptive thinking, financial literacy, entrepreneurship, sense-making, communication, among many others. This is also in line with a recent decision by the Finnish government to drop subjects in school and replace them with topics.

Employers, on the other hand, have an equally critical role to play. They not only have to make sure that they provide jobs that are suitable for young people and that allow young people to enter the world of work, but they must also play their role in training young people and getting them ready for the job market. Thus, it is inevitable that they closely interact with the education system.

However, in order to do so in an effective manner, employers need to understand what types of skills and capabilities they are looking for – not yesterday, not today, but tomorrow.

Building up a skills supply chain is a critical, yet highly demanding task for employers. But it is only if they can clearly spell out what types of skills they are likely to need in five years’ time that the education system can adapt and start preparing young people adequately.

Moreover, employers need to build a 21st century workplace – one that “speaks” to the next generation of employees and allows employers to not only attract them to their organisation but actually retain them within the organisation.

If we want to solve the youth unemployment dilemma, we need to find short-term and long-term solutions. Two of the core stakeholder groups involved are educators and employers. They both play a central role and closing the gap between these two entities is one essential strategy to resolve the problem.

Better aligning the skills that young people bring with them when entering the job market and skills that the job market requires at that point in time will be critical. It is a big task, but not an impossible task. But the different stakeholders need to work together.

Prof. Dr. Peter Vogel is assistant professor for technology entrepreneurship at the University of St. Gallen. You can follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn. His latest book is Generation Jobless? Turning the Youth Employment Crisis into Opportunity (Palgrave Macmillan).

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