Jim Spoher: Harvard Discovers the Skills Gap

Knowledge
Jim Spoher

Mind the (Skills) Gap

by William D. Eggers, John Hagel and Owen Sanderson

Harvard Business Review | 9:00 AM September 21, 2012

A bachelor’s degree used to provide enough basic training to last a career. Yet today, the skills college graduates acquire during college have an expected shelf life of only five years according to extensive work we’ve done in conjunction with Deloitte’s Shift Index. The key takeaway? The lessons learned in school can become outdated long before student loans are paid off.

And it’s not only white-collar, college-driven careers that will suffer rapid skills obsolescence. Think of how new metering systems and motion sensors suddenly require highly technical skills from contractors, plumbers and electricians. Or how welders working on wind turbines now need specialized degrees and the ability to read CAD blueprints or LEED certification requirements.

Today, individuals must constantly hone and enhance their skills to remain relevant in the workforce. As a society, we must figure out how to rapidly re-skill vast number of people on an ongoing basis to both remain relevant globally and to avoid long periods of high unemployment. Adapting to this cycle of obsolescence is perhaps America’s biggest challenge in staying competitive.

Before we get into solutions, let’s examine the situation we face. Currently there is a mismatch between the new demands of the 21st century economy and the supply of American talent.

According to our analysis of data from the Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for the next-generation of talent is shifting: 28 percent of the most promising positions will require “considerable to extensive preparation.” These high-growth jobs focus on the science, health and business fields — positions like biochemists, market research analysts and occupational therapists are set to skyrocket over the next decade. Compare this number to the slowest growth categories — Postal Service Mail Carriers and switchboard operators — where the majority of positions (up to 82 percent) are classified as low-skilled, and you can sense a real problem.

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Phi Beta Iota:  Absent integrity in governance, America is headed toward the bottom. Apart from the article’s focus on raw labor data, focus is needed on the outrageously ineffective and archaic US educational system, the lack of integrity and intelligence across many college offerings, and the complete lack of integrity across the US Commerce sector that has exported all the manufacturing jobs.  It is not only national government that is corrupt, but also state and local government — between the gifts of taxation and pollution exemptions and the lack of any serious “design” strategy for future resilience at the local level, the entire economy is poised for a hard crash — no graceful degradation, just from ON to OFF.

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