As per the World Economic Forum (WEF), the process of closing existing skills gaps could add $11.5 trillion to the global GDP by the end of 2028. While the technology and digital transformation is inevitable, skilled human capital is still key to the success of most organizations. Ensuring that future generations are work-ready is key to economic progress.
What is work-readiness?
Every year, close to 20 million students graduate, but as per some reports, less than 10% are work-ready. Based on my research conducted as an independent research project at Harvard Business School, there are 3 steps to getting work-ready and shaping a global work-force. Colleges should follow these steps for their graduates to help them bridge their industry readiness gap. As a work-ready graduate, you need to:
- Know yourself. Graduates are confused about which jobs to apply for, how long they will stick it out, what their short term goals are, what their strengths and development areas are. They also need a clear long-term and life vision, alignment of personal and professional values, understanding of what their right-fit culture is and preferences for work-life balance.
- Prepare yourself. Once a candidate has clarity on what they want from a job, they should start upskilling - both on soft and hard skills. This includes written and spoken communication and the ability to work smart (time management, problem-solving skills, business ethics, technical skills). Technological advancements such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, the evolution of industries such as Fintech and Edtech, the growth of digital marketing and new media has led to a whole set of new skills that are required to perform at work.
- Prove yourself. This is the final and most important step. Once a graduate has clarity and is armed with the right skills, how can they convince a recruiter that they are the best hire for a role? This includes how to make a good first impression, networking skills, resume and interview skills, as well as industry relevance.
How can our work-force stay relevant?
According to Deloitte, as organizational functioning is changing, soft skills such as creativity, leadership, management, critical thinking, and problem-solving are gaining prominence. These traits are crucial for delivering value to businesses and ensuring their unprecedented growth. A big chunk of the existing workforce is not skilled and equipped to cope with the digital disruption that we are going to see ahead. Training, upskilling, as well as reskilling, especially online, will play a pivotal role in achieving this aim.
Alongside colleges, employers should also actively invest in upskilling their teams and building leadership capability in their staff. With remote working becoming a reality, live online courses are an ideal solution to bridge this gap. Employers can identify the skills that are required and formulate mechanisms to recruit, train, and retain employees.
Walking the talk: Everyone talks about 21st century job skills, but very few colleges and companies actually walk the talk in terms of investing in building these skills. Businesses should ensure weekly training sessions for their teams, and colleges must have industry oriented training, internships opportunities and project based learning to ensure placement opportunities for their burgeoning graduate pools. Instead of only emphasizing academic grades and technical skills, we need to also screen for adaptability, learning agility, emotional quotient and resilience. This will ensure candidates have what it takes to be work-ready and enables companies to have a future-ready talent pool. One that is ready to take on whatever challenges come their way, and grow through them.