College Is Not the Only Path to a Brighter Future - OZY | A Modern Media Company

College Is Not the Only Path to a Brighter Future

College Is Not the Only Path to a Brighter Future

By Renee Morad


Because having the wrong skills could hurt you in the job market.

By Renee Morad

OZY and JPMorgan Chase have partnered to bring you an inside look at how entrepreneurs are coming up with innovative methods to help the communities around them. Enjoy the rest of our special series here

There’s good and bad to the lightning pace of technology today. One problem? Jobs are becoming irrelevant faster than ever before. According to the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC):

Globally, about 21 percent of workers report they are overqualified for their job, with an added 13 percent reporting they are underqualified. 

Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., notes that this “mismatch” takes effect as early as high school. Many schools simply “do not provide the education our students need,” he says, noting that “the goal should be to graduate and get a decent job.” Surgical technologists and diesel mechanics, for example, are roles that “offer good wages and the chance to move up the economic ladder.” 

So why are students graduating with the wrong skills? Well, for one, it’s hard to keep apace with technological change. But there is a solution: Big Data. There are data-empowered tools working hard behind the scenes to provide more transparency about how mismatched employers really are, so that educators and employers can step in to fill these holes. 

Today’s skills-gap dilemma comes with substantial drawbacks. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says the magnitude of mismatches varies by country, with over half of workers in 16 out of 22 countries surveyed reporting that they are over- or underqualified, over- or underskilled or that they graduated from a field of study different from their current job.

Our workforce research consistently reports concerns among employers in finding candidates with the right combination of technical and soft skills.

“Unless countries are better prepared to cope with changing skills demand, substantial skills shortages and mismatch, these will result in a considerable loss for individuals, enterprises and economies in terms of wages, productivity and growth,” says Fabio Manca, a labor market economist at the OECD in Paris.

As part of JPMorgan Chase’s global New Skills at Work initiative, OECD is working to expand the types of data available to skills-training providers and public officials, so they can better understand workforce training. The team behind the project is monitoring factors such as wage growth by occupation, measures of work intensity or hours worked, employment growth and vacancy figures in several different countries in order to paint a bigger picture of which industries need talent and which ones don’t. Thanks to data algorithms and web-scraping technologies that simulate human-search behaviors on the internet, a near-instantaneous picture of pressures on the labor market is beginning to take shape.

One initiative developed through this collaboration is PetrochemWorks, an online tool that acts as a matchmaking site between job seekers in the petrochemical industry and employers. Another tool developed through the collaboration is Where the Work Is, a United Kingdom-based interactive online tool that provides a window into which sectors have the most job openings and how many people might apply for them. By navigating to a particular region, users can see which skills employers are targeting, whether companies are seeking midlevel or higher-level candidates and the concentration of candidates in the labor market with applicable skills.


Of course, data holds great value in helping to better understand labor market pressures, but there are limitations to how impactful some data can be. For example, movement of workers from job to job and changes in salaries aren’t always easy to stay on top of. Furthermore, the skills gap needs to be filled with certain soft skills, which aren’t as simple to track through data. “Our workforce research consistently reports concerns among employers in finding candidates with the right combination of technical and soft skills,” says Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of CompTIA, a trade association for IT professionals. 

Nevertheless, closing the skills gap with data is a step in the right direction. With tools like these, employers and decision-makers can better understand their local labor market, and educators can create programs that will result in their students pursuing career tracks that have true growth.  

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