McKinsey Report on Edu to Employment: Useful Frame, Missing Innovation

McKinsey released a report called Education to Employment: Designing a System that Works and is holding a webinar on Monday at 9am ET to discuss it.
The report explores the conundrum of unemployed youth and millions of job vacancies–a massive skills mismatch and information gap.  There are about 75 million youth are unemployed worldwide.  Half are not sure that their postsecondary education has improved their chances of finding a job. Almost 40% of employers say a  lack of skills is the main reason for entry-level vacancies.
The report’s findings include the following six highlights:

  1. Employers, education providers, and youth live in parallel universes: they have very different understandings of job requirements,
  2. The education-to-employment journey is fraught with obstacles at three critical intersections: (1) enrolling in postsecondary education, (2) building skills, and (3) finding a job.
  3. The education-to-employment system fails for most employers and young people. About 70% of youth were unengaged or minimally engaged.
  4. Innovative and effective programs around the world have important elements in common: education providers and employers are engaged, and education providers work with their students early and intensely.
  5. Creating a successful education-to-employment system requires new incentives and structures: (1)Stakeholders need better data, (2) transformative solutions require big collaborations, and (3) countries need system integrators.
  6. Education-to-employment solutions need to scale up: blending online learning including simulations with employer specific apprenticeships.


McKinsey’s report was informed by a big survey.  The solutions they identified are proven. However, the report lacked a section on innovation opportunities–it was light on rapid skill acquisition and emerging market signaling strategies.
The Learning Design Opportunity of Our Time is to combine interest-driven and job requirements-driven learning–for me and for degree.  Innovative employability solutions will blend online and onsite, just-in-time and cohort-based, interest-driven and standards-based learning.  Compared to traditional solutions, next gen employability solutions will often be mobile, social, and free or cheap.
The report should have focused on dynamic job categories like web design/development where degrees have low value and where innovators–like P2PU and Udemy–are building new systems for skills acquisition and market signaling.
New market signaling capabilities that will augment or replace degrees (particularly in dynamic job clusters) will include certification, a portfolio, and a recommendation/reference system.  Following are a couple companies, mostly startups, rethinking market signaling:

The big sector wide solutions that the McKinsey team described will be beneficial when and where the occur.  In the mean time, watch for organic solutions that emerge around new skills acquisition capabilities and marketing signaling strategies.

Tom - Speaking Engagements

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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