We wrote on Tuesday about the new McKinsey & Company report — Education to Employment: Getting Europe’s Youth into Work — which highlighted the growing skills gap throughout Europe. Much of the study concentrated on the views of employers, but one of the most interesting sections was the part dealing with careers guidance for young people. There is no doubt that there is a general feeling amongst young people that good guidance is conspicuous by its absence and it is this which is largely fuelling the skills gap.
We have picked out some of the most significant quotes from the report which highlight this issue, interacting with them as we go along:
Many people looking back on their teenage years with honesty will probably have no hesitation in saying that taking life-directing decisions was about the last thing they were capable of doing back then. Often decisions are made with nothing more than a vague feeling of “this is what I want to do”. But does “this is what I want to do” lead to sustainable careers? Occasionally it might, but without objective information on what careers actually exist out there in the labour market, very often young people end up choosing paths which they later find out lead them into a dead end.
Choices made at the age of 15 or 16 will have a profound impact on a person’s life for decades to come — maybe even for the rest of their life. It is therefore crucial that the choices made at that age are informed not simply by “this is what everybody else is doing”, or “I like doing this”, but rather by clear information based on actual facts, what career opportunities might exist if they follow certain paths, and how they can get there.
Most school leavers will have some idea of what they like to do and what they are good at. What they often lack is an idea of what jobs are out there in the areas that interest them, how much these occupations pay, and what educational path they need to go down in order to get there. The problem, however, is not just a problem of young people not knowing what to do with their lives. Rather, it is a lack of objective information guiding them to making wise decisions.
There are three issues here. The first is that poor information will often lead to people attaining qualifications which are unlikely to lead to jobs. Secondly, this means that those same young people are not being trained in areas which they might have excelled had they taken that path, not to mention ending up with a rewarding career. Thirdly, this means that employers out there are potentially being denied a whole talent pool of skilled workers and consequently their business suffers. In other words, lack of quality information does nobody any favours.
It is abundantly clear that there is a massive problem and that problem is a lack of knowledge. There is a lack of knowledge about the types of occupations that actually exist. There is a lack of knowledge about the wages that could be earned. And there is a lack of knowledge about which educational and vocational path should be taken to get a young person into a sustainable career, to the benefit of themselves, their potential employers and the economy as a whole.
It all sounds a bit bleak, yet we believe this is where we can help. If the problem in the labour market is a lack of information, then the answer must be Labour Market Information (LMI). This is what we do. Our Career Coach tool uses LMI to deal specifically with the problems highlighted above, being designed to:
- Give people information on what occupations are out there
- Show people what wages these jobs actually pay
- Direct people to courses at their local educational institution where they can learn the skills which will take them into sustainable careers
- Guide people into making decisions based on local insight into specific local opportunities.
Career Coach is currently being used throughout the country by a number of “thought leading” colleges to set young people in their communities on the right path. The problem highlighted by the Mckinsey Report is undoubtedly a big one. Yet a little good LMI will go a long way to ensuring that today’s school leavers don’t end up taking the same wrong paths as many of those who have gone before them.