When talking to companies we hear about what they call a skills gap. The skills gap is a term used by companies and educational institutions to describe what happens when there are enough people for the jobs, but they don't have the required skills to be successful. It isn't a lack of people. It's a lack of skilled people. Why does this skill gap happen? Why could it be a growing problem? The world moves faster than it ever did before. Average employee tenure is dropping every single year. Whether employees are changing companies, careers or growing within their current position employees need to acquire additional skills over and over. Unlike many points in history, the skills required to be successful in today's modern professions didn't require when most employees were in school. That fact is directly counter to the current model of education in countries like the US. Young adults receive education from childhood through their early twenties. After the student graduates from university, they are then sent out into the world to learn and grow on the job. Most adults never set foot into a school again.
When adults don't set a foot into school again, yet progress continues to accelerate faster than people can learn on their own a gap starts to form. The speed at which students are learning is simply slower than their career ambitions or that employers require. The solution to closing that gap lies in a rethinking of higher education. Schools are experts at increasing the speed of learning, and the speed of learning is the problem we are facing. How can we bring schools back into an adults life and enable them to increase their skills development speed? We must create a new system of lifelong learning. We must create deeper connections between employers and education than just curriculum guidance. We need to get students out of the classroom and on the job. While on the job, students should be discovering what they want to do, where they have gaps and what they want their next move to be. Later in life, as people need to increase their speed of skills acquisition education providers, employers, and the government needs to support the rapid acquisition of skills. They can do this by helping a student leave the workforce temporarily, and attending a rapid skill acquisition school. These schools later in life need to be focused on return on time/money investment and quickly allow a student to learn the latest skills and reenter the workforce as quickly as possible. The future of work and economies lies in the hands of the countries that can change their system of higher education. Without the fundamental idea that learning should be a lifelong pursuit, the skills required to be successful will always surpass an adults ability to learn.
Joe Burgess is Vice President of Education at Flatiron School where he oversees all faculty, curriculum development, and pedagogy. Flatiron School teaches passionate adults how to be software engineers, data scientists or designers via in-person intensive courses and online courses. After completing their programs at Flatiron School, 97% of graduates receive job offers. Joe helped grow Flatiron School from one campus and three employees to 9 campuses and four hundred employees over the past six years. Previously, Joe developed the curriculum for the iOS program taught at his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon and worked as a consultant for IBM.