The Changing Labor Market : The Great Divide (Part One)
The rate of change on a Global level is now unprecedented: Never before have we faced such a complex and densely interwoven set of social and societal changes, driven by the rapid development and deployment of new technology. The Internet, with a particular emphasis on Social Media, is breaking down entrenched economic and social barriers.
We face a critical shift in economic thinking, one that is no longer bound to a process centered on production and growth, but instead an economy that lives and dies on creating thinking and the process of design. This new reality dictates a change in how entrants to the job market, with an acute emphasis on the youth, approach employment and navigate this new reality and it’s unique demands with ICT Education in particular playing a pivotal role in this new market reality.
Perhaps more than any other sector ICT Education has borne the brunt of these sweeping changes, seeing the need for agility and continuous development as an almost evolutionary response to the fast changing demands of new technologies, challenges and concerns. Due to a broad set of trends however ICT education has become less and less able to provide students with a talent profile that best fits the needs of employers in this new age. This growing need for employees with the right set of soft and hard skills can be witnessed across the whole ICT market, from start-ups and small businesses to big business and local governments. This had led to not only a serious shortage in skilled and qualified professionals but increasing unemployment among graduates across diverse fields.
There are a plethora of factors exacerbating the situation. The global economic situation, particularly in hard hit sectors post Global Recession, has caused serious imbalances in the availability and quality of education worldwide. The ever growing pool of older workers with retirement age being driven ever higher has placed additional strain on the opportunities of the youth. A principal factor in this situation, driven by global change and technological development, are the ever changing demands of industry for both specialist and generic knowledge at every level.
In the past Education as a whole was tied to a specific qualification which was linked to a specific job or career profile. Depending on the complexity of the job college or university education was required or even necessary. For decades the route from school to college and/or university to employment had been a predictable and often stable one. This is now naturally no longer the case for many sectors of employment.
Consequently the nature of work in general has evolved as well. As a result of extensive specialization and the increasingly complex production of both products and services the workplace is now one of swiftly changing teams filled by quickly rotating teams of specialists. These teams naturally need personnel with a good mix of both hard and soft skills, with a particular emphasis on the soft skills necessary for team cohesion and the ability to work in ever changing environments with varied personalities.
As more and more organizations align with the ‘Silicon Valley Model’ of hiring personnel on an assignment basis the job seekers of the future have to be extremely more versatile than what the Education and Labor market are currently producing. The field of employment has become far more complex. The need for employees with practical experience and the ability to contribute to employers on multiple levels beyond a single career skill set is now becoming a necessity. Job-seekers need to understand now that the term ‘career’ has changed from a single lifetime position in one company to a more self determined term. Career now means multiple employees, a lifetime of self education and changing locales. The need for experience and a track record for productivity are therefore higher than ever before
The consequence for many employees is they’re left with far too few talented graduates with which to employ. The additional pressure of the recent global economic woes have placed companies in the position of being either unable or unwilling to make the necessary investment in in-house training. This mismatch between ICT education and ICT labor cost for employers means higher recruitment costs, additional training, and increasing pedestrian/trainee flow. These developments mean many uncertainties and high barriers of access to successful talent for both employers and employees.
The end result for the Netherlands in particular has meant a general decline in the reputation of corporate and local ICT with employers regularly looking across their borders for the right IT talent. What we’re looking at is a rising tide of graduates increasingly unequipped and unprepared for a Labor market with demands they are unable to meet.
So where does the solution lie? To answer that one must first understand the wide divide between Generation X and the Generations before them.