I saw this interesting video by McKinsey & Company on the “education to employment crisis” which they shared at the 2013 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. I encourage you to take a couple minutes to watch. It says that approximately 75 million recent graduates across the world cannot find a job. Simultaneously, employers cannot find qualified candidates to fill their job openings (40% of job vacancies are attributed to lack of skills). These entities are working along parallel paths, but not taking into account the global view of getting our kids prepared for their next step.

While the ingredients to foundational success are becoming clearer, we haven’t yet established an approach – much less a solution – to better prepare professionals-to-be with working knowledge of a career, even for entry-level positions. And clearly this is a global issue. McKinsey profiles two organizations, one in India and one in the U.S., that are building innovative programs and approaches to transition greater numbers of students from education into employment.

Because universities and businesses are such large entities, they sometimes are slower to adjust to generational shifts and marketplace requirements. But both sides of the coin require change. McKinsey’s “education to employment” research study asked: Are young people prepared for work? Seventy percent of educators said yes. Less that 50% of young people and employers agreed. So the awareness of the scale of the problem is increasing. That is a good first step.

By better integrating industry and education, we can partner employers with universities to create a cohesive curriculum to ensure students are prepared for the skills required in their particular field of interest. More than two-thirds of employers have little to no interaction with educators – no wonder there is a disconnect. Here are some thoughts on both sides:

  • Employers: Connect with regional universities or education providers where your company recruits and work to align curriculum with the required entry-level skills. For example, Heidelberg USA Inc., a technology provider in the print media industry, has created a relationship with Auburn University and more recently Kennesaw State University. As a result of building a connection, the company has hired hundreds of interns who already meet the requirements of the company skills-wise. Often, many then graduate and get hired on. 
  • Educators: To be fully prepared, students need to go beyond the textbook version and learn the practical application of the skills required for a particular industry. Evidence-based practice is best provided by professors and adjunct faculty who have real work experience. The more relevant the professor can make the course, according to what the students plan to pursue, the more successful they will be in transitioning to a professional job. 
  • Employers: Offer your team leads across your business disciplines as guest speakers to local universities. Universities can then formalize their professional learning program, create a cohesive curriculum around it and ultimately elevate the rate of successful graduate placements. 

According to the McKinsey report, the education to employment crisis will result in a significant untapped talent pool which in turn will create instability in our businesses, education systems, global economy and the lives of graduates. By bridging the gap between employers and educators, we make way for sustainable advances that will pioneer the successful transition for generations to come.

Cindy Lubitz is Managing Director of inTalent Consulting Group

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