Technology and globalization are changing business models and it is becoming increasingly difficult for employers to find the right skill set to fill available vacancies. Businesses across the globe are sighting an acute shortage of skilled workers yet an estimated 73 million young adults are looking for a job. Labour market disequilibrium is resulting from structural unemployment caused by extraneous factors. These factors are exacerbating the shift resulting from technological disruptions in the conventional economy and a lack of knowledge on labour market demands.
Education systems are still modeled around industrial revolution and there is still an over-emphasis on academia, especially in developing countries, leading to education systems that fail to impart the right skills required by the local markets. This focus shifts the attention away from innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship, factors that are key to economic growth, development and transformation, leading to a population that is myopic and tied to ideals that are obsolete thus threatening social-economic progress. Education in the developing world is still a status symbol with universities churning graduates who have no substance. They are armed with pieces of papers that prove they passed through university but add no real value in the labour market.
The challenges faced by the developing world are different from those faced by developed nations. With the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the impact of technology; ranging from artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the internet of thing, is different between these two sides of the spectrum. The developed nation is worried about how automation will render many people jobless while the developing world is trying to grapple with laying down the right infrastructure that will bolster technological advancement as well as getting the right people to fill the demands set to arise from this new digital era.
Economic transition in developing countries, especially Africa, seems to be defying the conventional pattern. Economic transition has always moved from the agrarian phase to industrial production and finally to the service industry. Africa, according to pundits, seems to be charting a different course with the likelihood of bypassing the industrial base stage and leaping into the service economy. This is due to the rapid penetration of mobile phones and the internet and the need to solve unique problems facing the continent. This unfolding state of affairs unleashes new demands in the education sector and policy makers need to be proactive in addressing these findings.
There needs to be Public-Private Partnerships where employers, educators and policy makers meet to assess labour market shortages and ensuring that they craft programs that adequately address exiting gaps. According to McKinsey, the global economy could face a potential surplus of 90 million to 95 million low-skill workers and a shortage of 38 to 40 million high-skill workers by 2020. Instilling what Dr. Tony Wagner refers to as the ‘Seven Survival Skills’: critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurship, communication, curiosity and analysis, is vital. This will address the disconnect between education and labour market demands.
Education needs to fill the needs of local markets. Each market has its unique challenges and drafting the right policies will go a long way in bridging the gap that exists between required skills and available skills. Education needs to encourage entrepreneurship and skills development. The skill mismatch has long-term repercussions on the demand side of the economy and on social services.