“Young, gifted and slack” in the Economist talks about the worldwide crisis of youth unemployment, hovering at 13% worldwide for those between 15 to 24 but much higher in places like Africa (25%) or Spain and South Africa (over half of young people). It’s written by the MD of McKinsey but it makes a good point. Look wherever you like and you’ll notice stock markets picking up, unemployment still not recovered.
On one hand, it makes some people think a whole generation is lazy and feeling entitled (see Time – Millenials are the laziest generation) but the will to work exists and people who have ‘followed the rules’ and gone to university still don’t find jobs to match their degrees. Their (McKinsey) study of 4,500 young workers reported that 45% of 18-24-year old adults have jobs unrelated to their studies and a further half see them as interim roles they plan on leaving as soon as something better comes along.
On the other hand, the more depressing reality is that there’s a serious skills gap at the core, even for those thinking they’re doing everything right: 70 % of employers say candidates lack skills while 70% of universities surveyed by McKinsey believe they prepare students adequately for the job market.
So what’s interesting about it? There are three big implications for this skills & talent problem:
- Winners and losers - a growing gap between the scientific elite and the scientifically challenged of the future. IPSOS also shows that as scientists, academics and statisticians gain more credibility, politicians lose more along the way - with serious implications for who you turn to for policy, news and solutions.
- A MOOC from Harvard will be better than a degree from your local university. Why do an expensive, 3, 4, or 5-year degree that’s not been updated to the requirements of the real world and will not give you the skills you need to work straight away? If you’re going to get into debt, you might as well do it for something that’s relevant and updating as you go along. I was a MOOC skeptic until I read that Georgia’s Institute of Technology is offering its first online degree created in collaboration with AT&T for only $7,000. As Collini says in What are universities for?, ”discussion of universities, as of many other matters, has become afflicted with ‘Champions League syndrome’. It is assumed that all the ‘top’ universities ‘play’ in the same ‘league’.” Until a couple of weeks ago I hadn’t given it that much thought, but now I’ve been persuaded: good universities will become better, mediocre (real world) universities will disappear as more people favour of online courses from institutions.
- The end of facts and generalisations. ’Big data’ and ‘new media’ may be annoying monikers, but the reality is they’ll change what we understand by ‘normal’ and what we use as reference points. No more “generally, this group of people behaves in this way” because there won’t be any more ‘generally’. Remember Joi Ito’s principles: have good compasses, not maps. All the data gathered about us isn’t bad: social networks, sites and connected objects are gathering all this data and drawing important — sometimes survival-related — meaning from it, not just saving 2 years of idle time every day. Maybe one year of logging runs and walks seems boring, but if walks disappear and runs get shorter there’s something a bit more interesting in there from a health perspective.
* On a sidenote, I’m not afraid of robots taking our jobs (another popular narrative), because there’s plenty of evidence to support the fact that robots create more jobs than they destroy - I’m afraid of people not being able to learn how to make the transition (or being curious enough to – because you can’t teach curiosity).