Embracing MOOCs Will Close the Skills Gap

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Embracing MOOCs Will Close the Skills Gap

As explained in the April 2018 issue of Trends, Bain & Company estimates that between now and 2030, between $5-and-$8 trillion will be invested in the digitization of the American economy. And the biggest constraint on its ROI will be a shortage of skills.

Given enough time, we’d start by:

  • overhauling the antiquated K-12 education system to produce high school graduates ready to step into skilled jobs,
  • funding widespread associates degree programs that provide mid-career retraining, and ready young para-professionals to contribute on day-one; and
  • refocus universities on vocationally-relevant degrees like business, engineering, medicine and computer science rather than social indoctrination.

At Trends, we believe all these changes will inevitably happen, but they will be too delayed to deliver the quantity of skilled personnel needed for the Golden Age, now within our grasp. If the United States is to retain its preeminent position, business and government must work together to fill the skills-gap, ASAP.

In the second quarter of 2018, the U3 unemployment rate is already approaching 4%. And the shortage of qualified people for technical jobs is enormous. More important as we move further into the golden age, jobs will increasingly become more sophisticated. Part of the solution will be to combine artificial intelligence with para-professional skills to off-load work formerly done by professionals. But that simply means shifting the shortage from the highest educational level to the next highest level, where shortages already exist.

We know that the traditional education industry is failing to deliver people in sufficient numbers with the right skills. So, you would think American industry would have been ramping up training to fill a gap that’s been growing for 20+ years.

Good numbers on this are hard to come by, but what we do know is disappointing. For instance, in the United States, the proportion of people who received employer-funded training decreased from 21% in 2001 to 15% in 2009, the most recent year for which data are available. And business cycles weren’t to blame: The decline was steeper in boom periods than during recessions.

The truth is, business has been complacent for too long. According to professor Monika Hamori of Spain’s IE Business School, this “means a lot of people who want to become better at their jobs are fending for themselves.”

Society can’t change the pool of talent overnight. So, corporations that wish to thrive must embrace one or more components of an adult-centered, three-tiered education strategy:

  1. Educate the uneducated: the functional illiteracy and innumeracy among high school drop-outs, as well as many graduates, is appalling, but that’s who we’re recruiting for entry-level service jobs...

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