The education to employment journey for Gen-Z is broken

Esther O’Callaghan OBE on why Gen-Z need to augment traditional learning to develop the skills needed for the future of work.

The education to employment journey for Gen-Z is broken

I know all too well how broken the journey from education to employment is in Britain – and why we need new ways to fix the problem. I grew up on free school meals and left school at 16 to find work. I was acutely aware that people from relatively privileged backgrounds had a network and opportunities not accessible to young people like I was. Sadly, the education system is now failing to deliver the skills every young person needs for the workplace. I believe that innovative technology (in particular Web3 and the metaverse) is creating new opportunities to level the playing field and helping children who come from backgrounds like mine to find better-paid work.

The COVID pandemic galvanised me to focus on how Web3 technology could build the bridge between education and employment for young people. During the COVID lockdowns, young people lost their jobs far faster than other age brackets, but at the same time there were great, well-paid jobs like software engineers which companies were struggling to fill. I got very tired of hearing young people described as Generation Lost – we need to make the effort to bridge this gap. 

It helps that we’re about to reach a turning point in terms of the relationship between technology and employment. The World Economic Forum predicts that 85 million traditional job roles will be destroyed by technologies such as artificial intelligence by 2025, being replaced by new roles. Rather than training young people for jobs that soon won’t exist, we need to upskill young people for the roles that will exist. That’s where small, innovative companies, focusing on skills that are actually needed – such as what I call the ‘builder economy’ where people work alongside AI tools – can help young people learn the skills they need. 

Why the education system is failing

Traditional education cannot keep pace with the rapid acceleration of tech roles. By their nature, governments want employment, and they want people to have the right skills, because they want the taxes derived from employment. But if I look at my family, my Mum, myself and my son all learnt pretty much the same curriculum that has existed since the Sixties. Since 2008, big companies have been scrapping their graduate programmes , so there’s no longer a clear pathway for university to work, and students are now left with huge amounts of debt. We are in a new world where there will be one billion tech roles required by 2030, according to the World Economic Forum, and there is a huge skills gap because education systems can’t keep up. We need a new paradigm.

In the traditional education system, there’s not enough discussion around entrepreneurial skills, and virtually no awareness of the range of careers available in areas such as the metaverse and Web3. That’s where innovative education companies can help, partnering with education institutions to help young people understand the jobs that are out there. In our work at hundo, we augment young people’s mainstream education with the employability skills they will need for the future of work.

Web 2.0 versus Web 3.0

The promise of an open metaverse offers an opportunity to reverse some of the more hierarchical and centralised aspects of Web 2.0. There are already thousands of job vacancies in Web3, and every company is struggling to fill roles. It’s not just roles within tech companies either, it’s every industry. Even nursing jobs are now requiring people to use AI tools via iPads. For tech-literate Gen-Z youngsters, this presents an opportunity. What needs to happen is a dialogue between employers, education institutions, young people and innovative education companies to bridge the gap between digital-native young people and these jobs that organisations are struggling to fill. 

This gap – between what the education system offers and what young people really need – is a space where innovative Web3 ideas such as ‘learn-and-earn’ and the open metaverse can thrive. Young people need a solution where they can learn the skills they need, and employers can find the entry level candidates they need. Over time, this will help employers create a more diverse workforce fit for the future. 

For Gen-Z, the future can look bright, with millions of opportunities opening up in fields such as Web3 and the metaverse. But young people increasingly need to look outside an education system that is currently failing them – and embrace innovative ways to learn the skills they need to thrive in this new world. 

Esther O’Callaghan OBE
Esther O’Callaghan OBE

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