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Closing the Learning Gap May Solve the Skills Gap

Employers and educators can help our youth gain opportunities to advance.

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The advancement of technology is a concern for those who own businesses and are seeking to invest in top talent. Many media outlets have recently addressed the growing worry of a skills gap created by these advancements. The future is unknown for many regarding their careers. Even more so for our youth. Intelligence and talent have proved to come from all over the globe. Given the right opportunity, ideas and solutions can come from the most unexpected regions of the world. Employers and educators alike can work together to help close this gap. Starting with our education system and then requirements from employers for traits that go beyond a book. Below are some ways that may be useful in closing this gap and preparing for a brighter future for our youth and businesses.

Hire based on human traits and resiliency

Youth that come from poorer areas, challenged upbringing, or less than optimal circumstances and have endured show signs of excellence in being able to withstand what an unknown future may hold. These life experiences often teach these people how to deal with current resources, leverage outside support when possible, and above all etch in them a grit to succeed that school at a higher level simply is unable to replicate. This is not to take away from the skills and training that are obtained during matriculation through schools. It adds value to many who are first-generation attendees and sets paths for them going forward.  

The address here is for employers to take an unconventional approach to the skills gap that is so widely complained about. Don’t talk, act. It is a unique time in history where technology is leveling the playing field to create opportunity to those who would not otherwise have it. There are entire industries where years of experience and education are in danger of becoming completely automated. At the same time, technology is creating massive opportunities for those who are willing to learn and adapt to these changes. Youth from these areas may show the blueprint on how to deal with circumstances that require change in large scale with uncertainty. A determination to succeed may go much further than what a four year degree may say. Don’t close the door on unconventional ways to acquire talent.

Related: 4 Criteria Diverse Talents Use to Evaluate Their Prospective Employers

Educate to focus on core values

Critical thinking, collaboration, agility, and problem solving are all much-needed skill sets to thrive now and in the future. School programs that focus on early adoption of training in these areas will better prepare their students to be impactful in contributing to the needs of employers. How many students now are in classrooms identified by teachers, or incapable of performing, because of perceived inabilities to align with standard training? Yet these youth in their spare time are building technology, new devices or creating new methodologies to advance healthcare. The current system often overlooks these talents based on geographical and other demographics. Educators are either not trained to identify these students or not given the tools to support them for those who do recognize these talents.

I believe there is a great deal of talent that is being ignored now based on schools seeking to train students in concepts that are outdated to fit in the business landscape for the future. As an employer, we look for the basic human traits that show core values. How does this person deal with setbacks? What will they do under increased pressure to meet a deadline? What new ways have they looked at an old problem that they may be able to improve on? Are they open to take the lead on a project idea that they have brought in? How willing are they to go all in for the purpose of what we do and how it aligns with their goals in life?

When asked by schools to give my feedback, I often mention how businesses and employers getting involved with children early can have a great impact on their abilities to understand their capabilities to succeed. When they realize what businesses need now and pointing to a future many are still trying to grasp, they are better suited to respond to changes.

Related: Correcting and Dispelling the Myths About Diversity and Inclusion Hiring -- 4 Experts Weigh in

Collaboration between employers and schools

There is enough research supporting the executive skills shown in early years far outweigh the academic prowess at that age. The famous marshmallow experiment speaks to how these traits can follow children into adulthood. A holistic approach to hiring that identifies the social, emotional, and intellectual abilities as the value versus what school or grades attained may be a great way to hire going forward.

Employers that work with educators regarding the skills that are needed to excel in this new paradigm can help administrators develop programs that support this idea. Empowerment to young girls for their equal gifts to this world, support for diversity and opportunity given based on excellence in humanity may speed up the close of this gap. The conventional methods for acquiring talent are not keeping pace with the creating of technology. Out of the box thinking in focusing on the humanity element in our youth while hiring and leading based on it may be the very thing that causes technology and skills to run parallel to each in the end.

Related: Stop Focusing on the 'Pipeline Problem.' Tech's Diversity Issues Run Deeper.

Paul L. Gunn, Jr

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Paul L. Gunn, Jr. is highly skilled in procurement, logistics and supply chain for the Department of Defense and private sector. He is a USA Today and Wall Street Journal best-selling author.