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The State of Talent Development for the Social Sector

Numerous reports show that employers find it difficult to recruit because of the skills gap between what employers expect and what recent graduates can provide. The Amani Institute surveyed both employers and employees at leading organizations in the social sector to determine the nature of the skills gap The core finding of this study was that the attributes employers most value in prospective employees are largely things not received from a typical university degree.

Photo of Marie Mainil
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This report inspires me because it presents thoughtful and actionable solutions to youth unemployment and social impact.

Here is the executive summary: 

Numerous reports show that employers find it difficult to recruit because of the skills gap between what employers expect and what recent graduates can provide. The Amani Institute surveyed both employers and employees at leading organizations in the social sector to determine the nature of the skills gap

The core finding of this study was that the attributes employers most value in prospective employees are largely things not received from a typical university degree.

For instance, academic and theoretical grounding—the one topic that almost all employees agree that universities are most equipped to teach—is not in the top five skills that employers (of all sizes and types) are looking for

Employers consistently rank leadership and problem-solving initiative, project management skills (including program evaluation), and communication skills as more important than academic and analytical/quantitative skills

In providing these types of skills, they believe that universities generally fare poorly.

Employers and employees believe that the attributes needed for a successful employee are often best acquired through non-traditional means such as specialized workshops or living in a different country for 6 or more month. 

My follow-up question is: How do we integrate proven solutions to educational gaps into public educational systems? 
 
 

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Marie. Thanks for posting this. It is interesting to learn what the specific concerns are that employers have concerning youth. Did the report explain how an employer makes an assessment for an individual candidate? Is this based on application and interview or is it based on their experience with youth and their on the job performances?

Photo of Marie Mainil

Hi Bettina, all of the above.

Photo of Aaryaman Singhal

Brainstorming answers to your question:

Send college students somewhere away from their universities for a semester to live with less while giving to a community. E.g. students from Chicago drive two hours South to a farm where they sleep in sleeping bags, and work with their hands all day. They experience a difficult living situation, giving them new perspective on life and see the fruits (literally perhaps!)

In my college curriculum, usually 1/3 to 1/2 of our grade depends on group projects. We often don't get to pick teams, and so we have to learn to work with people. The projects are difficult and we are often given vague instructions on purpose so that we have to take initiative, problem-solve and work with our teams to come up with the best solutions. We then have to present our findings orally and in a written format. I think this style of learning covers growing as leaders, problem solvers, taking initiative, and improving communication skills.

In both of the past two ideas, I mentioned college students but if someone has made it to college, then they are probably already on a path to success so maybe this should be done at a high school level, or even sooner.

Create a school which has a curriculum designed around teaching the skills you mentioned rather than knowledge. Another thing I'd say I've come to believe through my education is that given enough confidence/support, anyone can learn anything (or at least a lot of things, many of which could help them get jobs).

Hopefully this helps.

Photo of Damien Lapray

Dear Marie,
that is a very important point you are raising here.
I am wondering if increasing school/industry partnerships could help people find there way to the job market.
I know in some countries this concept is taboo but why not? Students could have very early on internships during school time that would count in their curriculum.
That could be useful for companies that could notice directly the future talents and also give a more pragmatic role to the education system.
I would not go as far as Aaryaman for a school that teach skills rather than knowledge but I am sure both together could be more appropriate to prepare youngs to their professional life.

Photo of Meena Kadri

Fab discussion, people! This kind of conversation is exactly what the Research phase is all about. Keep up the provocations and opportunity seeking. It's all sure to enrich our upcoming Ideas phase...

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Marie, interesting post! Any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story with higher impact. You should be able to use the Update Entry button on the right of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. We know occasionally people have issues uploading images so let us know by hitting the Feedback button at the bottom of most pages of our site if you face any problems. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

And here's more handy tips on the Research phase: http://bit.ly/oi_inspire

Photo of wekesa zab

Very insightful of this "skills gap issue" .. Companies should develop programs to actively build on the system .. If the desired impact is the skill sets required then they know better that at most they should start early and make this long time investment "Risks" not with standing.. Its a profit seeking approach and it builds their entire value chain as a result it helps eliminate the rent seeking attitude that is a culture to most private sector entities over public systems.