Nelson Mandela once observed that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

It’s true. Well-educated people run our companies, our governments and our schools. They are inventing the technology and programs of tomorrow while solving the problems of today.

A new school year starts soon for many students around the world, and this “new beginning” is important to all of us. Those with children depend on flexible schedules and work-from-home opportunities now offered by employers, and focus on their roles as not just parents but mentors and teachers too.

Those without children also are affected because we’re all both teachers and learners. Even those with an advanced degree or two are still taking courses and learning at work. Sometimes keeping up is as challenging as acquiring skills initially.

But no matter when you start or continue your education, it’s important to stay focused on how much your future depends on the skill level you develop now.

The Global Partnership for Education – which coordinates a worldwide effort to provide a good quality education to children – calls education one of the most important investments a nation can make in its people and its future, and is critical to reducing poverty and inequality.

Businesses face smaller talent pool
In business, we’re faced with a shrinking talent pool, primarily for two reasons: demographics and education. In many places, the demographics are against us – more people are retiring than entering the workforce because the retiring “baby boom” generation born after World War II is so much bigger than later generations. Even some emerging countries are starting to feel this demographic squeeze, although others have growing worker populations.

The second reason, though, is education, and there’s a lot we can and must do about that. The required skill level in the global economy is rising, and educational systems worldwide have not been able to produce an adequate base of talent to meet these changing needs.

That’s particularly true in the high-tech industry, where there’s evidence that we may not have enough engineers to fill our needs, although a recently released study says there are – at least for today. But what about the future and what about the specific skills being taught?

Global education-to-employment system needs updated
At LSI, for instance, we have a highly educated workforce now and will continue to need one in the coming years to stay competitive, successful and profitable. That may not be as easy to accomplish as it sounds because, as The Futurist online noted several years ago, “The education-to-employment system worldwide is badly out of date. The U.S. and most other nations are not producing enough graduates with the kinds of technical, communications and thinking skills needed in the 21st century workplace.”

That, of course, begs the question: What will be needed?

A just-released study, Global Talent 2021, conducted by Oxford Economics with support from HR consultant Towers Watson and many global companies, points to new and different competencies expected to be in demand:

  • Digital skills: Working virtually and using social media
  • Agile thinking, particularly in the ability to deal with complexity and ambiguity, and assess and plan for multiple scenarios
  • Interpersonal skills, such as effective (physical and virtual) teaming and collaboration
  • Global operating ability, including managing diverse groups of people, understanding international markets and being culturally sensitive

Our job as business leaders is to make this happen by ensuring educators understand our needs and students realize the importance of obtaining undergraduate and graduate degrees in the fields that are in demand. That’s especially true in the high-tech area.

LSI lends a helping hand in math and sciences
At LSI, we start the process early. Our long-time backpack project engages our employees in an effort to ensure young students in need have the supplies required to start the learning process in the earliest grades. In addition, our giving program focuses on education, particularly in the areas of math and science.

Among its recommendations, the Global Talent 2021 study recommended that leaders ensure that education policy is fully integrated into larger economic growth strategies. Specifically, it said, we must expand access to education, increase the average number of years of schooling and improve the quality of education in key criteria (science, technology, engineering and math).

Easier said than done, but we’ve met tougher challenges. The future depends on it.


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