How companies can help to bridge the global skills gap

With the world’s major economies still stuttering, and recent figures suggesting that growth in Asia’s emerging economies has slowed, it’s not a surprise that jobs are back on the agenda. Questions are being asked as to how tens of millions of jobs will be maintained – jobs that have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.

Making headway in the jobs arena will require different actors within society (government, global companies, civil society, external agencies and individuals) working together in a complementary way that often seems beyond their scope.

Individual companies can make a difference, even if large-scale societal change proves elusive. Whether through a more egalitarian approach to recruitment, rejecting corruption or taking steps themselves to build their employees’ skills, employers can play their part. In the process, they can show that they are a potent force for social good. 

Indeed, the skills gap is at the heart of the employment challenge for many young people. It’s also of direct relevance to companies aspiring to grow their operations.

Earlier this year, GlobeScan was commissioned by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to conduct a series of focus groups for its 2012 Global Monitoring Report about young people, education and job skills. We spoke to more than 100 young people from impoverished and marginalized communities in Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Mexico, the U.K. and Vietnam. We aimed to get a better understanding of their experiences with developing job skills – and identify gaps between their skill sets and those required to find jobs. We also asked the youth what could be done for those in their peer group to attain these skills. And we also sought to uncover barriers to gaining job skills.

Understanding these youth perspectives is key for global companies interested in developing a thriving workforce for the future.

When GlobeScan finished our focus group discussions, we took away a powerful sense that the issue of education and skills would only grow in importance as the global economy continues to struggle and the needs of employers evolve.

We know through our regular tracking of global public attitudes that jobs and skills development are among the topics that most preoccupy people -- particularly in the developing world.

While there is a need for companies to make their operations more environmentally sustainable, there is also a strong demand for them to make long-term commitments for cohesive and sustainable communities by investing in people.

“The biggest problem is of unemployment -- in the absence of employment, what can poor people do for living?” a young person in India told us. “Even educated people who have degrees don’t get jobs.”

Photo of young crowd provided by Artens via Shutterstock

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