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Education is not mapped to the market, says Mona Mourshed, president & CEO, Generation

Generation's Mona Mourshed explains how skilling challenges can be tackled and how people can be made job-ready. Generation aims to bridge the education-to-employment gap by gauging the demand for profiles at the employer end.

, ET Bureau|
Oct 26, 2019, 11.00 PM IST
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Generation launched a programme, Regeneration, that focuses on mid-career learners: people who might have lost their jobs due to automation or digitisation.
The world is grappling with an education-to-employment gap. So, skilling mid-career learners is the next frontier for nations globally, says Mona Mourshed, president & CEO of Generation, a youth employment nonprofit founded by McKinsey & Company. Generation aims to bridge that gap by gauging the demand for profiles at the employer end and then training people and connecting them with these jobs. It was started in five countries in 2013, and has expanded to 13 countries since. In an interview with ET, Mourshed explains how the skilling challenges can be tackled and how people can be made job-ready. Edited excerpts:

Why does the education-to-employment gap exist?

When Generation was started, data from International Labour Organization showed there were 75 million unemployed people globally, and three times as many were underemployed. Yet, McKinsey research showed that 40% of employers couldn’t find the skills they needed even for entry-level positions. The number of unemployed has more than doubled since, but the conundrum continues. The education-to-employment gap exists because education and training are not necessarily relevant and mapped to the market. A degree is not equal to being job-ready. The nature of jobs is also changing rapidly. So it is even more important to have programmes that can support workers of all ages to rapidly prepare them to the demands of the market.

How does Generation bridge the gap?
To crack the education-to-employment chain, you need a holistic programme that is literally tracking each of the big challenges. That is where Generation comes in. It is designed to recruit, train and place learners in careers. And once they are on the job, to measure the return on investment (RoI) for both our graduates and for our employerpartners. Generation has a 7-part methodology to tackle every obstacle in the end-to-end employment value chain. What it seeks to do is see how we can support someone to not only train but also get employment in 4-12 weeks irrespective of their level of education.

Why is RoI important in the context of employment?
A lot of the global workforce landscape is focused on the number of people who have gone through a programme or on the cost per student. There is not enough attention on RoI. What are the actual outcomes in terms of income, employment and retention? We need more attention on this because this drives the behaviour of education and training providers. It drives the decisions that young people make about programmes. It drives the participation of employers in these programmes. Funders, including governments, could focus more on the outcome metric. We have developed a metric called ‘cost per employed day’. It is cost of ownership metric that together brings the cost per student graduation rate, the employment rate and the retention rate on the job. We are always driving to figure out how we can keep the cost per employed day to below a dollar.

Beyond RoI, what drives employment? Any challenges?
When we started Generation, we thought RoI is the only metric employers would need to see to come to the table. But, we found that some employers came to the table much faster than others. Working through that was quite important for us. For example, we have what we call a Desperation Index which measures how desperate an employer is to find the solution to a business problem. Those who are high on the Desperation Index will come to the table faster than the rest.

What is this desperation about?
It could be, they face massive scarcity so they can’t grow at the pace they want. It could be high degrees of churn which is affecting customer experience. It is also quite expensive to constantly recruit and train. Or, it could be about massive levels of productivity and quality variation, because some may get to their full productivity in, say, month four or five, but may leave in month six. So, those employers who are high on any of these parameters are the fastest to come to the table.

What is the next opportunity in employment?
We have globally launched a programme, Regeneration, that focuses on mid-career learners: people who might have lost their jobs due to automation or digitisation, or those who may be forced to re-enter the job market after a hiatus. We find there are very few programmes that focus on that mid-career learner. And yet, with the future of work changing, there will be an increasing need to support that population. The age group in Regeneration is people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s.

When do you launch Regeneration in India?
We are in exploratory discussions. Essentially, we find that the training part is not the challenge. There are two things that we are really trying to crack: one is ageism on the side of the employer. There are times when the employers prefer younger candidates and so, measuring RoI here is really critical. Regeneration graduates have the same outcomes as the Generation programme. In some regions, we find they have longer retention as they are less inclined to job-hop. The second is on the side of learners. It is important to also recalibrate expectations. For example, if a person has spent the last 10 years working in a particular sector and now has to shift to a new profession due to automation, how do you get that person to shift gears, reset and be open to learning anew?

How do you counter these challenges?
We are working on both challenges. For example, in Spain, we are training call centre operators in robotic processes technology. In the US, we are doing this with individuals who have lost their jobs and are now going into medical administration assistant roles or IT help desk. In Singapore, they may have been in logistics or sales and they are going into digital marketing and engineer roles. Globally there’s a need for much more attention on this population.
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