The following is a high-level summary of a more detailed report that summarizes the findings of six months of research into the changing nature of U.S. knowledge work and the requirements for creating a generation of knowledge workers who will not just be able compete, but will not be able to add differentiated value in a global knowledge economy. For a free copy of the full report, click here.
We’ve all seen the statistics and the anecdotes surrounding the declining technical skills of American workers. Although unemployment is at record highs, many positions go fulfilled for lack of qualified applicants. U.S. student interest and skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education is plummeting relative to other those in other countries and the U.S. is making it increasingly difficult—and unattractive—for talented foreign students and professions to enter and remain in this country. U.S. manufacturing workers lack the skills to work in new-generation factories and promising green tech firms are leaving the U.S. in favor of countries with larger markets and more sympathetic governments.
Unfortunately, most signs suggest that things will get worse, before they get better.
IT vendors and service providers that are based in or have operations in the U.S. face particular challenges:
- They will find it increasingly difficult to find sufficient numbers of graduates with appropriate skills and will either have to implement “remedial” programs or increase their use of offshore talent;
- If IT vendors/providers will have trouble finding skilled people, customer IT organizations are likely to face desperate skills shortages;
- A decline in math and IT skills among customer’s business professionals threatens to limit appreciation for, experimentation with, and adoption of new IT capabilities.
But while IT vendors face some of the greatest challenges from a U.S. skills gap, they are also the best positioned of any major type vendor to address the problem. These vendors, after all, created and will continue to create the tools that are revolutionizing work. They are also pioneering many of the organizational and business revolutions that transform the work environment of the future. IT companies, for example, have been among the leaders in transforming, automating and optimizing traditional business processes, in disrupting revenue models of traditional industries and in globalizing knowledge work and business processes that few ever dreamed could go offshore.
It’s only logical. Companies that are this involved in shaping and defining the future of knowledge work, are also among the best positioned to understand the skills that tomorrow’s workers will need. Although many such companies are already using their large, established training organizations to directly prepare some of their customers and their partners’ employees, a growing number are going much further.
They are forming increasingly innovative partnerships with universities (and to a lesser extent, all types and levels of schools) to help foster the educating of next-generation employees. Schools, including some that traditionally shunned such collaboration as an infringement on their academic integrity, are increasingly welcoming this help as a means of better preparing their graduates for jobs in one of the most challenging job markets in memory.
These types of partnerships, which can include access to free or low-cost hardware and software, help in designing curricula, courses and Internet-based delivery systems and joint research, are beginning to yield some big benefits to the companies and schools alike. In the end, however, students are probably the biggest beneficiaries.
We are, however, only early in to the second generation of such partnerships. The real benefits—to IT companies, schools, students and to the IT companies’ customers and communities—are still around the corner. So, as discussed in some of our recent articles and reports, some vendors and some universities are already beginning to reap some big strategic and financial dividends from their initial partnerships.