The world of work and the way we think about work are currently undergoing seismic shifts. Whilst much of the focus on this tends to be on the issue of automation, and what that might mean for both employers and employees, there is something that is perhaps even more fundamental. We’re talking about skills.
It’s noticeable that in the last few years, employers have been placing an increasing emphasis on skills over qualifications. It’s not that they aren’t seeing people with the right qualifications coming through; rather, their frustration is that very often they are seeing people with the “right” qualifications coming through, yet they are finding that many of these people do not actually have the right skills that are needed to do the job they are employed to perform.
However, whilst employers and employer groups tend to be very good at bemoaning the fact that there is a skills gap, at the same time they tend to be considerably less good at articulating what this skills gap actually is. The head of a business lobby group will stand up at his organisation’s annual conference and give a keynote speech highlighting the huge skills gap, which is hampering growth and productivity, but can he and the group’s members actually articulate to education providers exactly what they need to be doing to fill these holes? Probably not. You might hear something about the need for more engineers or more software professionals, but the problem is that education providers are already churning out engineers and software professionals, and employers are still finding that these people lack the specific skills they need.
In other words, when you hear employers and employer groups talking about a skills gap, and then hear them go on to talk in terms of certain occupations that are needed, such as engineers or software professionals, there is actually another gap going on here. Let’s call it an “Inability-to-Articulate-What-Skills-Are-Actually-Needed” Gap. How can this be overcome?
The missing piece in all this is not qualifications, or even occupations, but rather the joining factor between them, which is the skills components within both. If education providers can better understand not just the occupational demand of employers, but also the specific skills components of these jobs, then they can more easily incorporate this into their course areas, and so train up their students in the skills that employers really need.
Here’s a quick example of what we mean. Using our Job Postings Analytics for a university region within the United States, we have identified the Top 10 hard skills required by employers looking to fill an occupation connected to the Computer Science course area (this is based on 41,528 unique job postings by employers in the region from September 2017 to August 2018):
As you can see, the insight goes much deeper than just looking at demand for software programming, delving into the specific skills components that employers in the region are looking for. From the point of view of an education provider, this insight is invaluable, since it gives a far better sense of the actual skills needs of employers in its region than having to second guess what is needed on the basis of employers complaining about a lack of software programmers. And of course this insight can then be used by the institution to incorporate in-demand skills components in its course areas.
The answer to overcoming the skills gap — or rather the “Inability-to-Articulate-What-Skills-Are-Actually-Needed” Gap — is therefore the use of insight that can highlight the actual skills needs of employers. Such data can open up the skills components of in-demand occupations, which in turn can be used to shape the skills components of course areas, which in turn will lead to more graduates going out into the world of work with the skills that their future employers really need.
For more information about how we can help your organisation identify the in-demand skills in your region, contact us now.