Global skills gap calls for Higher Education reform
Via Unsplash

In a fast-paced and globalised world, graduates instilled with the ‘soft skills’ that thrive within the complex business sphere are in increasingly high-demand among contemporary employers. But are the world’s universities doing enough to ensure students leave equipped with the necessary skills to succeed?

As Filipino entrepreneurs Annie and Badjie Guerrero created Cravings, a state-of-the-art hospitality establishment, they discovered a lack of practical expertise among recent graduates in the Philippines which severely halted any prospect of new business development.

While the mother-daughter duo were not short of highly-qualified kitchen staff, the task of finding candidates with relevant front-of-house, customer service and management expertise proved rather more difficult.


“New hires in management areas were really lacking in practical skills,” Badjie told the International Finance Corporation (IFC), with many candidates lacking soft skills like good communication and a positive attitude. In order to overcome the severe skills shortage, the Guerreros began funding their own vocational institutions in order to produce industry-ready graduates.

The Guerreros’ Manila-based schools have since provided specifically tailored courses for 24,000 locals, equipping them with skills like cost control, marketing and foreign languages, and instilling them with a mind-set of social responsibility.

But the Guerrero’s were lucky to be in a position few other modern business start-ups find themselves in, since the majority simply do not have access to the necessary funding and resources that would allow them to establish their own tailored training base.


“Even during periods of rapid economic growth and job creation in developing countries, many of these jobs remain unfilled, and identifying the right candidates becomes a true challenge amid high unemployment because education systems, including higher education institutions, are not keeping up with the needs of the job market,” writes Alejandro Caballero for University World News.

Caballero points out that the skills gap is set to increase if global universities and employers fail to help students hone their critical thinking skills and ability to solve complex problems, as well as to communicate effectively with others and to persevere until failure is overcome.

“These are the skills that set these candidates apart, leading them to quality employment and shielding them from job losses triggered by computerisation,” Caballero writes.


According to a recent Nesta study titled Creativity Vs. Robots, graduates of a more creative disposition are in-line to receive the most fulfilling positions because the skills they have gained in the course of their education are “more future-proofed” to computerisation.

But for the prospective student, the task of trying to identify a university course and career path safe from the threat of computerisation seems both impossible and futile, since research has shown that 65 percent of children just starting their primary education will gain a future job position that does not currently exist.

So what does this mean for a global education system that does not seemingly address the widespread shortage of specialised skills? It means that colleges and universities worldwide may need to reconsider their current model of teaching, opting instead for a modernised, multi-disciplinary and skills-based approach to fall in-line with current industry standards.


“A better idea would be for our education systems to find new ways to help develop cross-cutting skills like problem-solving, teamwork and leadership which have universal value,” Caballero concludes.

“In short, [we need] a system that prioritises skills over credentials.”

Image via Flickr.

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