Global megatrends and technological advances are changing the future of work, while outdated education systems are not adequately preparing young people for that future. Efforts to reform our education systems, new digital tools and the rise of online-learning are helping to close the gap. However, employers are still experiencing a shortage of necessary skills. Business needs demand rethinking our approach to education and innovating to develop relevant, on-demand, scalable and widely accessible learning modules.

In the 2019 The Future of Work and Youth, the European Youth Forum identifies four global megatrends as shaping the world of work, and the specific challenges facing young people today: globalisation, climate change, demographic changes, and technological advancements. Beyond the traditional challenges for young people entering a competitive job market, these megatrends are transforming what work is required and how it will be done, giving rise to compounding difficulties.

The transition from education to full-time employment is now more difficult and taking longer. Once in, the average job tenure is decreasing. Researchers suggest that a 15-year-old today will, over their lifetime, have an average of 17 jobs over 5 different careers. Similarly, the shelf-life of training and acquired skills is diminishing and demanding frequent refreshment or periodic upskilling to stay relevant. The increasing fluidity of jobs and rise of the gig economy can mean many young people are caught in a cycle of precarious employment, without access to workers’ rights or social protection. The need to engage in the digital economy, and increasingly access digital learning tools, is potentially exacerbating inequality.

Governments and regulators play a critical role in addressing these challenges. Reforms to national education systems, labour market regulation, social safety nets, health and mental health advocacy, and incentives for sustainable business practices all play a role in shaping the future of work for the better. But is there a case for businesses to drive innovation in education and skills development for young people?

According to Deloitte Insights 2019 Global Human Capital Trends, the principal human capital challenge faced by CEOs is still finding enough people with the right skills to meet demand, at all levels of the organisation – not only for digital and data-literacy, but also the softer human skills such as creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication.

This suggests a payoff for businesses to invest in expanding the available talent pool through: innovating for new forms of targeted education and alternative channels to relevant skills acquisition; promoting scalable approaches that are fair and widely accessible; and leveraging these approaches to also support lifelong learning.

The challenge: How might businesses lead on new approaches to education, that prepare the next-generation workforce, and promote fair access to learning opportunities?