One of the hottest topics at SXSWedu has been how to prepare students for the workplace. Or, in the case of one panel I went to, how to prepare employers for the next generation of students. In a panel called “Diplomas Optional: Jobs of the New Century,” employment experts from LinkedIn, the Markle
Foundation, and Maricopa County Community Colleges weighed in on the current gap between education and recruitment. The Markle Foundation shared with us their new initiative called Skillful. This initiative is intended to bridge the education and recruitment gap in order to help employers find the right talent in a skill-based economy.
The Markle Foundation’s Skillful initiative will establish a new platform to provide transparency into the skills required for mid-level work. The aim is to put an end to ambiguous job postings requiring extensive degrees and experience. According to the panel, these job requirements were traditionally the employer’s most concrete method to determine the skills a candidate has. “So many Americans have great skills, but for too long we’ve valued the college degree as the primary path to success, even though 70% of Americans don’t have one,” says Wan-Lae Cheng, Senior Director of Education and Employment at the Markle Foundation. “This has left many middle-skill Americans—those with a high-school diploma and some college experience but not a four-year degree—with fewer paths to opportunity, while at the same time many employers struggle to fill open positions.”
But What If There Was A New, More Innovative Way?
What if we quantified the specific competencies required for the position and developed the means for candidates to demonstrate these competencies without a diploma? The results would be truly disruptive to the higher education industry, requiring tiers, single-skill classes, and sub-certifications. And these opportunities are already emerging through badge systems and other initiatives across the online learning space. Employers need only to pay attention to these innovations and adapt their processes to suit. The Skillful initiative hopes to facilitate this by raising awareness and enhancing communication between all parties.
“With Skillful, we are building a set of online and offline tools to connect middle-skill job seekers with employers and educators so they can advance their careers,” says Cheng. “Skillful focuses on the key skills and training needed for each job, rather than just on degrees or certificates. It marries the online platform with on-the- ground engagement to build a grassroots effort to reach jobseekers in their communities.”
The work of the Markle Foundation is echoed here in Canada with Magnet’s Universal Language Project. Magnet is a not-for- profit social innovation founded by Ryerson University with a mandate to help connect people with jobs and enhance the economic strength of communities. With so many organizations focused on bridging the gap between higher education and employment, the future of recruitment looks very different, but very bright.