Industry & academia

The importance of closing the skills gap in today’s job market

Explore the pressing skills gap issue facing universities, hindering graduates' job readiness. By 2030, 85 million skill-based jobs will open in the U.S.

May 16, 2023

In this century universities face a new and difficult challenge to overcome; a growing skills gap between what higher education institutions teach and what industries expect from recent graduates. It is traditionally considered that once students complete their degrees they are ready to enter the job market. However, the reality is that most new graduates do not meet the requirements for the job offers available to them. A severe lack of skills and techniques hinders their chances of passing the first job screening during the job application process. While sometimes the skill lacking is as simple as knowing how to write a proper resume, the truth is that often what schools prepare for them fails to meet industry demands. 

In the U.S. alone it is predicted that by 2030, when the Boomer generation leaves the work market, there will be around 85 million jobs open to fill, most of these skill-based.

Modern workplace office full of people working on their computers

There exists an urgent need to prepare future generations for these jobs since they are essential to the economy. It was once believed that a college degree bettered your chances of obtaining higher-paying jobs while it was still possible to get by without a degree. Nowadays, having a degree no longer offers security, and the growing labor offer makes it unimaginable to access high-pay jobs without a college degree. We are at a crossroads where a degree is essential but does not guarantee employees the skills needed to meet industry demands. The result is an increasingly underutilized workforce eager to do the job but lacking the tools to do so. 

Overcoming this challenge

While it is true that all students need to grow outside of their academic studies, there are certain areas that a student alone can’t be expected to discover. For example, IT students can do a lot of practical work to better their skills, but if they aren’t learning about AI, cybersecurity, and quantum computing, they can’t cover both theory and practice on their own. Higher education institutions need to work side-by-side with real industry actors to close the skills gap. Schools must establish connections with innovators and leaders in different industries to know precisely what they prepare students for. Doing so creates a win-win situation where the industry’s demand is met by graduates being better prepared to enter the workforce, and degrees return to being valuable and practical, not just a prerequisite for job screenings with no actual weight. 

The alternative would be for schools to remain the same, in which case employees will continue to shift their focus from education to skills. A 2019 survey by Wiley Education Services showed that only 10% of employers would not consider someone without a college degree. While this is good for closing the skills gap, it shows that the industry is willing to change its hiring practices to close the skills gap. Getting a degree will always be valuable in itself, but when push comes to shove, the practical value of a degree is truly what motivates students to pursue higher education. That practical value being the promise of job security.

Young graduate in front of group of classmates at graduation meeting.

In order for higher education to preserve its practical value, institutions need to work towards closing the skills gap which, at the moment, is threatening to undervalue what colleges and universities have to offer. 

Schools looking to support their past, current, and future students in their careers can start today by partnering with 1Mentor. Understanding the industry’s rapidly changing needs requires time, research and a holistic approach to the problem. By joining a community already working on closing the skills gap, education programs can rely on more than just their curriculums. No one alone can transform the current education system to fulfill the potential to deliver an education complete with theory and the practical skills necessary for students to continue entering the workforce. At 1Mentor, decision-makers are given quality tools to understand the industry’s changing needs.