Despite efforts to improve college- and career-readiness, students, educators and employers around the world still largely exist in "parallel worlds," never really aligning the skills students learn in class and the ones they need after graduation, according to a new study by the McKinsey Center for Government.
The report, "Education to Employment: Designing a System the Works," identified specific obstacles at different critical junctures of a student's academic-career path. For example, nearly a third of those who graduate high school never enroll in college because it is too expensive. Once enrolled, about 60 percent of students reported wanting on-the-job training and hands-on job skills, but fewer than half had courses that allowed this. Once they graduate, 25 to 40 percent of students found that they were unable to get a first job related to their college field. This matched employers' experiences; 69 percent of employers reported difficulty in finding job candidates with the right skills.
Effective training programs around the world had two things in common, the study found. First, educators and employers worked together, with businesspeople helping to design curricula and educators working to place students in internships. Second, both teachers and employers work with students "early and intensely" to prepare them for a job.
Researchers for the center, part of the international research firm McKinsey & Co., surveyed students, education providers and employers in nine countries across a broad swath of demographics and income levels: Brazil, Germany, India, Mexico, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They also analyzed case studies of more than 100 education-to-work programs in 25 countries.
The release site for the report includes some fascinating case studies about the programs that get career-readiness right, including Meister High Schools in South Korea. The system of 28 government-backed schools work not just to train students in technical skills, but to promote advanced manufacturing as a respectable career choice, on par with traditional white-collar professions and requiring the same level of academic rigor and dedication. This is important in a country in which 42 percent of young people reported being "over-educated" for the jobs they applied for, and where one in five small and midsize businesses report they cannot find workers to meet their needs. The schools incorporate industry internships to encourage students to try out different fields before committing to an expensive course of study in college. That might have lessons for American colleges now convulsing over which degree fields to keep and phase out.