Don’t Just Stick a Band-Aid on the Global Talent Gap

According to a story on CBS Evening News this week, there are “plenty of jobs if you’ve got the right skills,” pointing out that companies in the U.S. have thousands of technology-based job openings without enough skilled people to fill them. But if companies are serious about tackling the global talent gap, especially in developing countries, they need to move from purely focusing on job training to also include investment in good quality education more broadly. Here’s why:

Our latest research suggests that U.S. companies by-and-large make short-term, uncoordinated social investments most heavily devoted to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, entrepreneurship education and skills training developing countries. These contributions aim to close the talent gap and in many instances include remedial literacy and math training for youth and adults. However, these companies are not really investing in early childhood development or early learning, which are vital points of intervention if we want to solve – not patch – the talent gap.

If corporations continue to invest only in education at the secondary and job training levels, they are just sticking a band-aid on the talent gap instead of focusing on the root cause— the lack of early learning success. Investment in early childhood development and quality primary school prepares the next generation to continue on with further education and acquire new skills without needing remedial education and training programs. And, if corporations coordinate their investments in adolescent education with other donors and national governments, education systems can better cultivate individuals with the necessary life and critical thinking skills to be productive members of society and the economy. Young people who can read, do math and think critically are not just useful to the technology sector, but have the transferable skills needed for a variety of economic and civic activities. 

The Global Compact on Learning outlines the priorities and strategies needed to address the global learning crisis and charts the course for a new generation of young people with employable and social participation skills. It also outlines specific roles corporations can play to advance learning for all in a way that is not only a good thing for society, but is smart for the company’s business interests. Instead of investing millions in workforce preparation in the short-term, companies should really invest more broadly in education early on if they are serious about closing the talent gap in developing countries. This long-term investment will lead to a generation of young people with the transferable skills needed for the jobs of today or tomorrow.