I'd like to borrow a phrase from one of my favorite authors and podcasters: thinking out loud in public.
It's a phrase that has resonated particularly strongly with me in recently, as we've actively engaged with employers, educators, and young people to address the weaknesses in the education to employment journey with a view to designing, building, and refining Wayfindr accordingly.
For buried within the phrase is an acknowledgement that thinking out loud in public can be a risky undertaking. And, we have found, doing so within the realm of education and employment has been at times both immensely productive and highly risky.
But, particularly in the realms of education and employment, I think it needn't be.
People want good careers suited to their skills. Employers want people with suitable skills. And educators want good career outcomes to attest to their quality, relevance, and value.
Yet, despite it's seeming obviousness, the above statement has served me well in recent months. It cuts to what I see as the heart of the issue:
Though their interests are inherently aligned, individuals, employers, and educators exist in parallel, non-overlapping universes where its perilously easy to forget they're on the same team.
72% of educators believe graduates are well-prepared for work. Fewer than half of graduates (45%) and employers (42%) agree.
As I've spoken to the these three groups, each of which Wayfindr is designed to serve in unison, it has become abundantly clear that a deep well of frustration - resentment, even - about the current journey from education to employment exists on all sides.
Educators feel employers aren't meeting them halfway - and vice versa. Young jobseekers feel that, though they've completed all the steps expected of them, they're not seeing the pay off they feel they were promised. I understand the frustration felt by young job seekers, take a look for yourself:
84.6% of high schoolers graduate high school. More than two-thirds go on to enroll in college (69.7%). Then, just over half graduate with a degree within 6 years (60%). And then... just over half secure a degree-level jobs (54%).
Our most lauded education to employment pathway - to graduate secondary education, enter post-secondary education, invest an average 3.3 or 5.1 years and five or six-figure sums to get a two or four-year degree, graduate with an average $37k of debt and get a job commensurate with your education - under-serves more than four-fifths of those who participate in it.
On other words, it works as intended for only 19.1% (deduced from: 1 x 84.6% x 69.7% x 60% x 54% = 19.1%) of any given year group
As well as under-serving students, it appears to be under-serving employers.
46% of graduates are underemployed (in positions that do not require a degree). 45% of employers are unable to fill some entry-level positions due to a lack of skills.
Educators will inevitably be affected too.
An education to employment system in which students lose faith in educators is a broken one.
Education providers - already facing financial pressures from lower mature and international student matriculation - will struggle and, in the extreme, disappear due to declining enrollment figures. Then, employers - already unable to fill entry-level vacancies - will suffer further skill and talent shortages. And then, we will all suffer from the resulting economy-wide under-utilization borne of from an immobile, under-skilled workforce.
This situation is graver still when we consider the impending effects of the fourth industrial revolution, a period characterized by rapid and far-reaching disruption brought about by increasing technological innovation and adoption, on the demand for highly-skilled labor.
Not only will the demand for highly-skilled labor increase, the instability of the specific skills demanded will increase. As we progress through industrialization 4.0, the economic dependence on education providers to help satisfy the demand for new and complex skills will require a healthy and thriving marketplace of post-secondary education providers.
Thinking out loud. Aligning interests. And taking action.
I think the hurdles we face in repairing the education to employment journey are eminently surmountable.
The first hurdle is probably the hardest; agreeing our interests are aligned, the system could be better, and overcoming inertia.
And so, much of my time is (gladly) dedicated to sharing thoughts and ideas - even partially-formed and imperfect ones - that may help improve the education to employment system with others. And, as I do, asking for a candid, yet fair and charitable reception as any improvements we make to the system together, no matter how incremental, will better serve all our interests us today and our future selves tomorrow.
The remaining hurdles, of course, we have a solution for:
Wayfindr, a 21st century careers platform that unites the three stakeholder (individuals, employers, and educators) on a single platform, permits the effortless transmission of critical skills information (macro skills demand and supply information and micro skills required and acquired information) into and across the marketplace, and yields higher fidelity interactions and better and faster hiring processes via modern, information-rich job seeker, employer, and educator profiles, job and program listings, and tools.
Thank you for reading. And, in advance, thank you for thinking out loud with me.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founder & CEO, Wayfindr