The skills gap: Europe on the Brink

In this article, we delve into the looming skills gap crisis in Europe, discussing its ramifications and offering strategies to tackle it head-on.

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The Skills Gap. A phenomenon that has hit America and is looming in Europe. It encompasses the divide between what employers are looking for and what employees can provide. But is it really all that insurmountable in a time when the labor market is changing so rapidly? Or is it merely a matter of perception? Do we really need to be concerned about it here in Europe, or is it still a long way down the line?

Google ‘skills gap’ and you’ll be deluged with articles, blogs, and infographics on the subject. Opinions are divided, which is reason enough for me to offer you a few points of view and let you draw your own conclusions.

But first, back to basics with a definition. At an individual level, the skills gap is the difference between the skills required to perform a role and those that employees can currently provide. However, I prefer to look at the bigger picture. For several years now, discussion in America has revolved around an ever widening skills gap at a broader level – unfilled job vacancies and a desperate shortage of employees with the right skills, at a time when there’s rising unemployment. Not surprisingly, this is often referred to in America as The Skills Crisis. Across the pond, this supply & demand mismatch is a major issue.

What’s causing this situation?
The following would appear to be the foremost causes:

  • a structural mismatch between school leavers’ skills and companies’ requirements and too few graduates in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
  • education’s failure to keep up with the fast pace of developments in STEM industries
  • employers’ insistence on looking for employees with experience in latest developments and technologies – they simply don’t exist yet
  • an aging baby boom generation and the knowledge that will be lost when they retire

But it’s not all doom and gloom, according to Liz Ryan, founder and CEO of Human Workplace. In August 2016, she wrote an article in Forbes sending a very clear message, “The skills gap is primarily an excuse not to act.” Ryan claims that people develop relevant skills on the job, so don’t blame the mismatch on the educational system. She also states that future employees need to manage their careers as if they were in business for themselves and continue their professional development on an ongoing basis. Employers therefore have to provide the tools to allow their staff to achieve this. This vision certainly has something going for it, in my opinion.

Is Europe next in line? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below. In my next blog post, I’ll be writing about my own points of view on this subject.


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Original version | July 4, 2017

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