FIELD Report No. 17: Skills for Jobs for Growth

  • Date Posted: November 8, 2013
  • Authors: Monika Aring, Lara Goldmark
  • Organizations/Projects: FHI 360
  • Document Types: Evidence or Research
  • Donor Type: Non-US Government Agency

Youth unemployment is a problem that has reached crisis dimensions in the Middle East and North Africa, and a phenomenon of worrying magnitude almost everywhere else. After demographic trends, the most commonly cited explanation is the “skills mismatch.” After all, 20-90% of employers in most of the world’s regions say a lack of skills is an obstacle to their growth. Meanwhile, in the majority of developing countries, state-sponsored higher education and training systems are notorious for their inability to respond to, or anticipate, market signals.

This FIELD Report explores workforce development, or human capital development, as a field of its own, encompassing education systems, economic development policies and programs, and corporations’ human resource functions. The report, utilizing three country case studies as support, lays out the argument that workforce development programs must be aligned at the top—with economic development strategies; in the middle—with education systems and employers; and at the bottom—with the needs of particular target groups.

According to the authors, Monika Aring of SkillNations and Lara Goldmark of FHI 360, the time has come to move beyond the traditional frames of reference that have historically dominated the discourse on employment. A forward-looking perspective is called for if countries are to rise to the jobs challenge: encouraging workplace flexibility; exploring new ways to connect—or even merge—school and work; and daring to discuss what policy measures might be appropriate for today’s economic environment.