How might students bridge their own skills gap?

After years of research, stakeholder interviews, and user analysis of the “skills gap”, a series of solutions are rolling out throughout the country. While the solutions seem clearcut and easy to understand in the reports published by the White House, institutions of higher education and professional development training programs around the country are finding it difficult to sync up with employers and their needs.

Basically, the research findings and data analysis says that students are not prepared for the workforce that awaits them. Employers are not satisfied with the skills applicants are applying with. The employers know the high level of competition and innovation taking place all around them. They need access to the most qualified talent possible if they want their businesses to stay solvent. It is not difficult to understand their concern.

At the same time, it is incredibly difficult for educators to connect with employers on a scalable level to find out what their unique needs are at this very moment. The disruptive nature of our volatile economy is creating a larger than life obstacle for educators. It is no secret that educators want their students to succeed. However, the current model expects educators to communicate with employers on a regular basis so that training programs and institution curricula can be updated and refined to meet the needs of the employers in that given year.

I wonder if there might be another way to equip our rising workforce with the tools required of the future without sending them through an traditional education institution or training program. Perhaps job seekers looking to enter the competitive labor market are able to go through a self-paced or self-directed learning program. One of the purposes of this program is to active a growth mindset in the job seeker so they begin to think differently about how they might take control over their future by learning as much as they can at all times. Now learning is no longer restricted to the classroom it is important for the rising generation, or any job seeker looking to pursue a meaningful career, to understand what that little device in their pocket can actually do for them.

Attention Job Seekers: Don’t wait for someone to tell you that you’re ready to learn something. If you want to learn how to do something then you should start learning right now. Head over to the Google and ask her what she thinks you should start with.

Even with that approach, though, it can be difficult to navigate through the noise of the internet. How do we know what content is vetted and accurate?

Perhaps this is another gap that a self-directed program could fill. If students were provided with a platform or a tool or a mentor that showed them how to cut through the noise of the web and directly access the content they need specifically for the skill or trade they’re trying to learn it might be quite useful. This would be considered their personalized learning environment.

Once the technology is setup and automatically feed the student the accurate information pertaining the desired skill set, the student would be able to focus energy and time with on-the-job training programs: shadowing, internships, apprenticeships, and various other project-based learning experiences.

If there was a way to facilitate the student in sewing themselves into the cultural fabric of their local community by intentionally surrounding themselves with the people (mentors, employers, educators, residents, family, etc) who care about the student’s success would perhaps become known as the student’s support network of continuous social emotional support.

If the student-soon-to-be-job-seeker had an easy and effortless way to manage these external components of what it takes to be a 21st century earner perhaps it could act as a facilitation tool that prepared the student in a new way for the economy which awaits them.

It would be within this program the prospective job seeker begins to learn the ins and outs of the competitive labor market that awaits them. In order to gain such high-level insight they work with the pioneers of today’s economy. For the pioneers of today seem much more qualified to provide the next generation with the advice and insight of what the real world is like. Young job seekers learn how to innovate within their field, how to look for missing pieces in their everyday tasks to save their employer money, and a valuable skill set of understanding how to stay ahead of the innovation curve within their industry ensures employers that they are getting this country’s next innovative leaders.

These types of experiences are outlined clearly in the American Apprenticeship and Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grants that were announced by Obama. Specifically, he emphasized three key strategies for bridging the gap between education and employment in an effort to prepare future job seekers with the effective training employers are looking for.

Expanding Apprenticeships and On-the-Job Training

Apprenticeship programs and on-the job training opportunities allow workers to earn while learning job-relevant skills and to advance their careers.

Catalyzing Education-Workforce-Industry Partnerships

Partnerships among businesses, educational institutions, Workforce Investment Boards, and other stakeholders are vital to promote job-driven training. Businesses can help ensure that education and training programs are designed to teach in-demand skills and can create demand to hire the graduates of those programs.

Improving Job Matching by Hiring Based on Competencies and Credentials

To better match individuals with job opportunities and relevant job training, education and training institutions need to know what skills are in demand by employers and how job seekers can demonstrate those skills. Hiring based on well-defined competencies and credentials can help education and training programs offer better career guidance and develop jobdriven curricula for students and help students and job seekers make smarter choices.