The Skills Deficit: A Game-Changing Opportunity for Higher Education

There is a vast disparity in the conversation and position taken by all parties up and down the spectrum in the Skills ecosystem.

There is a glaring disconnect in the conversation about skills. 

There is a lack of clarity about future skills needed, lack of confidence about credentials delivered, limited value attributed to learner outcomes, limited appreciation of immediate employer needs and therefore an inefficient deployment of government funding.

Everyone seems to lose either directly or as a consequence of the shadow cast by this macro and very globally relevant set of factors and indicators. This loss is compounded by statistics, which seem to indicate a vast gulf between academic institutions' appreciation of how relevant their 'product' is to the needs of the market.

The disconnect costs the economy billions in lost value. This is no exaggeration: if only 25% of employers are satisfied with the quality of students coming out of post-secondary education in Canada, for instance, over $25 billion each year is immediately brought into question by the market, acting as 'consumer'. 


If 75% of all food products on the store shelves were substandard would there not be an outcry? If 75% of all transport service was below standard would there not be a backlash and investigation? Why is that all the stakeholders and market beneficiaries continually suffer the lack of appropriate skills being made available to them?

The problem is nothing more and nothing less than a function of an ingrained sense of helplessness and inability to view alternatives, which are not only immediately available but also validated.

Employers need skills, not merely credentials. The current market sees these as two very distinct pillars. When of course anyone inside education will assume one to reflect the other.

The attributes and competencies needed in a workplace, which is transforming right in front of our eyes, are much more fluid. They reflect flexibility and adaptability and point quite directly to the traditional degree having an ever-shortening half-life of relevance as a person's career progresses.

What institutions need to factor in is that the star graduate is not the person with the best degree, but rather the person who acquires the newest skills and with the most adaptable skill set.  That is far from the current success key performance indicators and benchmarks that institutions measure themselves against.

The ability to access qualifications and credentials online has fundamentally transformed the expectations of learners, as consumers. Learners, as consumers, can make a choice, and the current options matrix presented to them, makes an incredible difference in the impact that such qualifications have on the economy. Subject and modules that can adopt a model of remote delivery obviously benefit from an inbuilt advantage over fields that cannot be learned this way, with regard to attracting talent.  These fields consequently grow in size, cornering a greater share of the economy, and thus creating more demand for new entrants and so on. 

This paradigm shift will transform not just an institution or region, but the fate of nations.


Dan Sandhu

Keith HampsonComment