Employers Work with Schools to Close the Global Talent Gap

 

Jathan Janove, J.D. By Jathan Janove, J.D. April 24, 2019
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​Many European countries are better at preparing workers for jobs than the United States is, according to a yearly report on filling the talent gap around the globe. That's because these countries, such as Switzerland, create more partnerships between schools and businesses.

Last November, the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) released its World Talent Ranking 2018. Researchers studied 63 countries in the developed world to determine relative talent competitiveness. Switzerland ranked first for the fifth consecutive year. Denmark, Norway, Austria and the Netherlands completed the top five. The U.S. came in 12th, up from 16th the year before, due to improvements in science, technology, and mathematics education. Canada was in sixth place, Mexico was 61st, and Venezuela was 63rd.

The IMD ranked countries based on three main factors:

  • Investment and development. IMD measured resources the countries committed to cultivating homegrown human capital and took into account pupil-teacher ratios, the percentage of women in the workforce, apprenticeships, health care, employee training and total public spending on education.
  • Appeal. IMD measured how effectively each country attracts local and foreign talent. It looked at cost of living, worker motivation, quality of life, brain drain, compensation, tax rates, rule of law, crime and private-property rights.
  • Readiness. IMD assessed the quality of the skills and competencies available in a country and looked at labor force growth, skilled labor, international experience, leadership competence, the education system, science in schools, university education, language skills, student mobility and finance skills.

IMD's findings indicate that the most successful countries in talent competitiveness are mainly European, midsize economies with heavy investment in education.

However, investment in education doesn't guarantee a high ranking. Tom Crane, vice president of HR and communications for China Construction America in New York City, noted, "China now ranks as having the second highest number of top universities globally and continues to make important strides in producing top-educated talent." Yet overall, Hong Kong ranked 18th in the report and mainland China 39th.

Why Switzerland Leads in Talent Prep

"Switzerland is especially strong in developing partnerships between business and education," explained Solange Charas, Ph.D., an international HR metrics consultant who teaches at Columbia University, New York University and the University of Southern California. "[Businesses are] proactive about going to vocational schools and explaining what they are going to need in the next five to 10 years. And the vocational schools focus on developing talent to fill these workforce talent needs."

How the U.S. Can Move Up

The U.S. can better prepare its workforce by forming more partnerships between educational institutions, the public sector and the private sector, stated Stela Lupushor, the founder of Reframe.Work in New York City. "Most of these efforts will still be about investing in technical skills," she said.  

Charas recommended creating a consortium between businesses and educational institutions in the U.S., similar to the Swiss system. "We must reverse the stigmatization of vocational education. We have a shrinking middle class because not enough people are being trained for good middle-class jobs," she said.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Introduction to the Global Human Resources Discipline]

What HR Can Do

Education doesn't stop once a degree is earned; it continues throughout a person's lifetime. So HR could provide employees with formal learning opportunities, said Paul Jones, chief leadership development officer at USANA Health Sciences in Salt Lake City.

Lupushor added that workers can learn not only through university programs or vocational education, but through such alternatives as attending conferences, job shadowing and working on projects beyond their job requirements.

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