Four College of William & Mary students discuss what the world might look like in 2050, and what skills we will all need to develop, after attending the Diplomatic Courier‘s third annual Global Talent Summit in Washington, DC.
The new year began with the Diplomatic Courier’s third annual pre-Davos Global Talent Summit. Intended to reimagine the world in 2050 and discuss how both jobs and education will have changed, the event boasted many speakers from various fields and covered a wide array of topics. Throughout the day, several themes emerged among the speakers. Four critical trends, as we look to the future, are the importance of skill development, changes to school curricula, the need to bridge the gap between enterprise and academia, and fostering a global perspective.
Skill Development for a Technological Era
Developing and investing in the right skills will be crucial for people entering the workforce of tomorrow. A rapidly changing economy, both domestically and internationally, has created a gap between the skills people are leaving higher education institutions with and the skills employers need the most. Two private sector heavyweights at the Summit, Fumbi Chima and Larry Quinlan, argued that employers will need to draw from a broader pool of academic institutions rather than falling back on the typical top-tier universities. Chima and Quinlan, both Chief Information Officers at their respective companies, Burberry and Deloitte, also placed particular emphasis on students becoming proficient with technology and quantitative skills.
Acquiring technological skillsets was a theme heard throughout the Summit. Edith Cecil, Vice President at the Institute of International Education, and Jean McCormick from BraveNew primarily focused on skills that would facilitate individuals starting their career right out of school. Cecil placed particular emphasis on the value of learning computer languages. Coding, she suggested, should be prioritized earlier rather than later. Students should not be introduced to programming or even basic digital tools as late as college. Secondary schools therefore have a role to ensure that sufficient computer courses are offered. Just as Cecil declared that not enough high schools in the United States included coding in their core curriculum, Carol O’Donnell, Director at the Smithsonian Science Education Center, touched on the lack of a centralized, educational focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Changing the curriculum of schools is essential as about 20 percent of the workforce currently relies on STEM skills to be competitive.
Developing a Global Perspective
Although many speakers highlighted the importance of hard, quantitative skills, McCormick among others stressed that acquiring foreign language skills and international experience is also critical. Foreign language is just as important as computer language. Employers find potential candidates who know more than one language to be highly desirable in our global economy. Furthermore, providing more opportunities for study abroad is crucial to growing a workforce that has a better world perspective. Programs that send people to spend time in other countries naturally feed into the global strategies of many corporations. Again, these opportunities should not begin at the university level, but become available as early as possible. As employers appreciate the value of these experiences, corporations could therefore coordinate scholarships for study abroad programs through academic institutions, further bridging the divide.
Narrowing the Gap: Human Potential v. Opportunity
While skills acquired from schools, quantitative or qualitative, are essential in the changing employment environment, a fundamental part of fostering a prepared workforce is simply access to such resources. Obstacles still exist for many people seeking jobs or economic opportunity. A number of the panelists spoke of their own experiences trying to bridge this gap, both in the United States and abroad. Robert Nicholson, Chief Administrative Officer at NPower, is part of a mission to extend resources, training tools, and a vast support network, to veterans and underserved young adults. Nicholson explained that 52 percent of post-9/11 veterans will face a period of unemployment at some point in their lives, despite refined skills gained through years of military experience. The training NPower offers allows students to walk away debt free, and has found that 80 percent of students find a job in IT within six months of graduation. This gap between potential and opportunity is perhaps, as Andrew Mack of AMGlobal argued, even more pronounced in the developing world. There are currently over 122 million youth in Africa between the ages of 15-19 who could utilize their potential and skills in the job market, but do not have the opportunity. The key to solving this issue is to implement micro-franchising and create a renewed sense of entrepreneurship, especially in developing countries.
Farah Mohamed and Crystal Arredondo discussed how the gap can be reduced worldwide for one of the largest marginalized groups, women. While Arredondo is focused domestically as the Chair of the National Association of Women Business Owners, Mohamad brought in a global viewpoint as the CEO and Founder of G(irls)20. Both are leaders in advocating greater access to financial services for women, especially business owners. Increasing the labor force participation of women everywhere will convert potential economic opportunity into real, sustainable development. While entrepreneurship is a solid way for the economic empowerment of women, both speakers agreed that companies and governments alike had to push for the continued integration of women into the global economy.
It is also important to help people recognize and market the skills they already have, as Jason Green, Co-Founder of Skillsmart, argued. Many times, candidates are not considered for jobs as it may appear they do not have the correct credentials. Green points out, however, that skill sets different than credentials, but a candidate capable of doing the work but lacking the appropriate diploma may be overlooked by employers who focus on credentials. Another challenge many people face is an inability to recognize or clearly articulate the skills they have acquired. Together, these twin challenges prevent many qualified people from finding employment.
While many different topics were discussed at the summit, speakers seemed to agree that the world is changing. Both jobs and education need to make adjustments, maybe even large ones, to be able to keep up with the way in which the world is developing. Those who do not change will inevitably be left behind as those who embrace change and find ways to meet new demands surge ahead.
Authors Isabel George, Yaseen Lotfi, Bailey Liddell, and Jennifer Horowitz are currently students at the College of William & Mary.
Image credit: “Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, gives the opening keynote,” courtesy of Kay Floyd and the Global Talent Summit.