The Future of Work Capsules: Addressing the disconnect between the world of education and work

Season’s Greetings to you all
Baptista Sarah Gebu (Mrs.)

As we imagine work for the future, it’s great we start taking steps to address the disconnect between the world of education and the world of work. How did we know this? According to the International Labour Organization (ILO, 2021) only half of employees globally hold jobs matching to their level of education.

Aside the obvious thought of considering we placing square pegs in round holes, we need to consider the level of disconnect if any, that exist in the world of education and that of work. You will agree with me that, education should be about learning and development and not necessarily about scores. Interestingly enough, it appears we place more emphasis on grades, score, and class to the detriment of the core.

“Many people are working in jobs that do not match their level of education. At the same time, many employers claim to have difficulties in finding workers with the skills that they need to expand their business and innovate successfully the ILO postulates. This phenomenon points to a significant disconnect between the world of education and the world of work.”

As you are aware, the future of work suggests changes. The nature of work and the speed of the workplace should need same level of attention and focus. Unfortunately, recent graduates by observation many a time are unable to adapt to the changing tends. Would it be justifiable to say, the lack of soft skills is a big determinant to the issue? Soft skills are very relevant and necessary but I believe the field of study and the approach to learning cannot be ruled out.

The prerequisite is to think going forward if at all doable of instruments and systems that connect up interests and opportunities from employers with skills and abilities for students. I can still remember how I use to move from one lecture hall to another and switching my minds from one class to another and subjects which was kind of routine in nature then at the university.

I find this same practice happening even in recent times at our institutions of higher learning to include our universities coupled with the use of old lecture handouts. Our educational system should not be rewarding students who can reproduce the lecture note vividly. The lecture notes should be a guide to helping us undertake our independent research and come out of thoughts, opinion and claims.

I believe introducing a project management approach to the learning curriculum will help address practical problem solving in the real world of work a determinant contributing to the disconnect between the world of education and the world of work. When students start discussing real business case study scenario questions as a project it helps develops their problem solving skills.

According to the ILO, “drawing on labour force survey data on the level of education and occupations of all employed workers in over 130 countries from the period of 2012 to 2020, the ILO estimates that only about half of these workers hold jobs corresponding to their level of education. The remainders are either overeducated or undereducated for their jobs.

Workers in higher income countries are more likely to hold jobs that match their level of education. In high income countries, this is the case for around 60 per cent of the employed. The analogous shares for upper-middle- and lower-middle income countries are 52 and 43 per cent, respectively where Ghana was profiled for low –middle income. In low income countries, only one in four workers holds jobs corresponding to their level of education. These observations suggest that the rate of matching increases with countries’ level of development”.

Government as a stakeholder should be very much interested in the kind of skills that employers and industries are looking for. For regulators, the adoption of this simple but very relevant approach will support address the disconnect issue.

This is how. Businesses are considering applicants that possess critical skills and talents that go beyond the classroom. A lot number of business owners keep complaining. Some are of the opinion that, the certificates the graduates are holding these days are not a true reflection of their worth. They come in with big degrees demanding big salaries but cannot fix the very basic issues and challenges of industry.

What learners are learning in our institutions of learning and what businesses need on the job often are two diverse sets of skills. It is very important to note that, most businesses truly do not care about what our graduates claim to know and the certificates they possess. What most businesses and industries truly look out for is what you can do with what you know.

The internship and national service introduction is just a brilliant idea. We can go a step further as a continent to start aligning our curriculum and tailor it to industry’s needs and that stakeholder consultative dialogue must be considered. For instance, why engage a lecture to teach a very salient topic like entrepreneurship when the lecturer in question has no idea what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

Such courses am highlighting among others demand practical experience sharing. The theory in books may not necessarily be adequate and the environmental factors may not be the same in all countries. Let me demonstrate that. Aside the challenge that comes naturally with managing businesses, you need to understand the cultural and environmental issues that frustrate Ghanaians and the business environment.

A simple request for service which could be sent through an e-mail portal for instance in other countries will demand your physical presence, travel time and further resources to submit a hard copy document to a government office for follow up.  A project was recently introduced where a director of a faculty teaching entrepreneurship was to manage.

From the onset, the total project transfer cost computation didn’t factor the exchange rate differentials and inflation. The project was approved 6 months before. The exchange rate differences at the time of transfer affected the project performance as the differences were too huge to permit a successful implementation. The faculty lecture made some profound statements saying if he had known what he knows now his stands on some issues whiles lecturing will be different.

Another area of disconnect could be that, our institutions of higher learning may not be alerting students the value of what they are learning. The students in terms also see the system as a process to acquiring a certificate to get them to work.  Helping these students understand and interpret this value they have received to employers will help.

Finland as a country is adopting critical problem solving approach to helping their kids for instance to study even at the junior level, reason the World Economic Forum site reasons their educational system is the best.  These kids are each day given a task and a real world problem to solve. This situation is supporting them learn so many skills unknowingly. Team dynamics, problem solving, risk taking amongst other.

It’s about time we start training ourselves to live not out of a box but as though there are no boxes at all. Our institutions of learning are established around risk circumvention and compliance, yet businesses want personnel’s who are engaged and learn by experimentation and error. To change what is taught, there should be a change in what is measured. We need to start getting worried not with failure.

The lessons we learn from the trail and error if picked up comes up handy. Failing should be part of the success equation at some point to enable us invent. Should our educational system and cultural orientation support risk avoidance, how do we produce industry men and women who can take risk? Notwithstanding the fact that, our graduates are having high GPAs, some even from big schools they are not job ready and missing the right mind set and not just with wrong skills.

To commence the discussion on the skills gap and the disconnect, it worth noting also that businesses have millions of jobs they can’t fill with qualified workers. The dynamics of this covid-19 pandemic can’t be overruled as many businesses until recently are struggling to still find they feet. Some jobs are lost which is a fact and many more jobs are created. The degree certificate will get you to the door, but your performance will support your stay.

The pandemic has contributed to high unemployment rates. It’s very essential that we support employees to get back into the workforce if with or without a degree. Investing highly into technical vocational education and training (TVET) is one way to supporting address the issues. I believe also that our students possess a lot of varied skills. Companies should communicate their skills needs accurately to support job seekers.

In tune, job seekers must communicate clearly their skills set. Thinking as though there are no boxes approach will enable businesses to hire on demand basis which should be a departure of the known standard 8-hours work schedule. We should be willing to support job seekers commit some hours to different jobs. It’s kind of difficult right now because that realization hasn’t dawn on us yet. But it’s doable.

For the future, employers are employing character first before competence. Let me hear back from you or what your thoughts are about this statement on character first employment before competency.

These are some identified skills that employers want in new hires: determination, a can do attitude, teamwork, impact and results, curiosity, taking and accepting responsibility as well as taking ownership, and analytical consistency. The future of work may not offer you any retirement age and the concept of a job for life will not exist. Be agile.

Baptista is a human resource professional with a broad generalist background. Building a team of efficient & effective workforce is her business. Affecting lives is her calling!  She is a Hybrid Professional, HR Generalist, strategic planner, innovative, professional connector and a motivator. Visit our website: E-mail us [email protected] for your management consulting needs.  Follow this conversation on our social media pages Facebook / LinkedIn/ Twitter / Instagram: FoReal HR Services.   Call or WhatsApp: +233(0)262213313.  Follow the hashtag #theFutureofWorkCapsules #FoWC


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