Think about when you received your high school diploma. Were you ready for the workplace? Did you feel equipped with the skills you’d need to compete in the job market?
For many young people, the transition from school to work is an overwhelming feat in which they receive little guidance or support. University is still not an option for the majority of the world’s youths, forcing them to find some sort of suitable employment at a tender age. Considering that primary and secondary schools are the last lines of defense for so many students, shouldn’t education providers do more to ensure that these students are adequately prepared for the workplace?
Many countries throughout the world still exhibit a huge gap between their education sectors and the labor market. While it is not the sole responsibility of education providers to alleviate youth unemployment, there are many steps that these institutions can employ to overcome inefficiencies preventing students from becoming better equipped to succeed in a 21st century job market.
One of the first areas that education providers could address is the content and delivery of curriculum. In many circumstances, curriculum could be better adapted to address 21st century demands. By focusing more on relevant themes and values, schools could tailor instruction to address the skills mismatch, a common complaint amongst employers. To complement this, schools could also transition their focus from knowledge-based standards to skills-based standards. Employers now want to see students who can demonstrate that their abilities and skills go beyond basic knowledge. This requires schools to employ more efficient and dynamic teaching methodologies that encourage young people to use and apply the knowledge they receive. Given new trends in pedagogy, like challenge-based learning, gamification, and flipped classrooms, this could easily be materialized in many schools with proper teacher training.
Schools can no longer afford to emphasize university as the central means to attain job mobility. While university will always be an invaluable institution, it excludes too many youths thus inhibiting them from finding suitable employment. Moreover, an emphasis on academicization continues a paradigm that forces schools to produce a string of job seekers, when in reality we need schools to produce more job creators. Considering the rapidly changing nature of work, we need to encourage the next generation to be innovators and to create the jobs of tomorrow. By emphasizing this mindset from an early age, we better prepare young people to be in charge of their own future regardless of labor market obstacles.
Education providers should lead the way in creating Education to Employment (E2E) ecosystems. Every secondary school should be equipped with a career services department that can promote career readiness, create awareness about external opportunities and programs for students, and assist students with finding employment prospects. This department would be expected to collaborate with government bodies and employers thus engendering a collaborative framework to better support students as they transition from school to work. It would also ensure that young people are already strategically thinking about their futures well before graduation day.
Of course, these are just a few of the transformations that schools need to undergo to better prepare students for the workplace, and they will need external support to do so. Inadequate funding and resources, the overuse of standardized testing, overworked teachers, lack of collaboration, and stigmas against vocational training are just a handful of obstacles that can prevent schools from moving forward, thus hindering efforts which would allow youths to find their place in the job market.
As a society, we need to refocus our efforts in education and clearly define the expected outcomes we want for our youths. To me, one of the main functions of education should be to enable students to have a bright future. This signifies adequately preparing them with the skills they’ll need for the 21st century and providing them with opportunities to find work. Together we should be able to materialize such simple goals; it’s just a matter of adjusting our priorities.