More bad news on the skills-shortage front since my last post on the subject. This time, the shocker comes in the form of a number, part of the McKinsey Global Institute’s recent World at Work report: By 2020, according to the report, the world could have 40 million too few college-educated workers.
Youch. That’s a huge shortage — as the late George Carlin might have said in his infamous oxymoron routine.
As Tracy McCarthy, senior vice president of human resources at Chicago-based SilkRoad technology, told the Society for Human Resource Management in it’s report (subscription required) on this matter,
This skills shortage, particularly for high-tech skills, has existed in the United States for some time now. If you look at the number of H-1B visa holders, you’ll find the majority are for high-tech skilled workers such as engineers.”
Yes, I’ve been aware of the skills shortage for some time now; I know about the scarcity of math-and-science-proficient engineers (something I keep telling my engineer son to bear in mind and use to his advantage as he plots his future); I just hadn’t seen a 40-million-shortage headcount by 2020 until now.
Ravin Jesuthasan, Chicago-based global-talent-management-practice leader for Towers Watson, says the future gap will come with some friction points too. As he puts it,
While there will be an overall shortage of college-educated talent, there will be dramatic differences across countries. Developed markets like the United States, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom will experience huge shortages, while countries like India and Indonesia will generate significant surpluses as the key drivers of education, demographics and immigration play out differentially. The challenge for employers will be how they tap into these surpluses; making the mobility of work essential.”
What the McKinsey report does not cover, Jesuthasan adds, are the specific skills that businesses will demand and the gaps relative to those within the current workforce. As noted in Towers Watson’s Global Talent 2021 report, he points out, employers expect to place increasing emphasis on four skill areas: digital skills, agile thinking, interpersonal and communication skills, and global operating skills.
I guess you can look at all this as more fodder for the battle cry to bring the best thinkers of the world together now – from employment, academic, even governmental sectors – to try and solve this thing before the global marketplace closes up shop.