ISLAMABAD: The country’s employers and educational institutions need to engage to understand the skills required for employment in today’s job market, said speakers at an educational conference titled “Education to employment: bridging the gap”, organised by the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA) at a hotel on Wednesday.
The panelists said that employers need to build linkages with educational institutions —financially and intellectually – by setting up technology laboratories and informing the students of industry expectations.
The ACCA is a global body of professional accountants that offers qualifications for people seeking a career in accountancy, finance and management.
Meanwhile, the panel’s discussion focused on a McKinsey Centre for Government report, which revealed that almost 40% of employers worldwide think that lack of skills were responsible for entry-level vacancies.
At the same time, the report indicated that 75 million youth are currently unemployed around the globe, indicating a paradox where youth have university qualifications but not the right skills for jobs in the disciplines for which they had studied.
Director Internal Audit at ACCA Muhammad Uzair said that employers and education providers live in parallel universes.
“There is very little dialogue and universities are not prioritising linkages with the industry,” Uzair said. “We need matchmaking between what is being offered (at universities), what is required and what people are aspiring for.”
Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) Deputy Country Director Hammad Siddiqui said that employers and academia need to speak the language of the youth.
He said that new technology especially social media tools should be used to reach out to students and young professionals about ways to approach the market. “Universities are only teaching students to pass exams,” he said. “Fresh graduates do not know where the job markets are or how to tap in to them.”
Head of Management Sciences at COMSATS Institute of Information Technology Dr Khalid Riaz said that employers need to engage with universities much earlier than the internship process which usually happens at the end of a student’s university education. Riaz said that curricula design and revisions were areas where collaboration could take place.
Head of ACCA Pakistan Arif Masud Mirza said that, by 2030, Pakistan is expected to have a population of 250 million. During the same time period, he said, the developed world will start looking toward developing countries for skilled and professional workforce because of ageing and other issues in developed countries.
He said Pakistan could capitalise on that potential demand but the time to start preparing was now. One way to prepare, he said, could be that employers and academia step in to each others’ worlds and prepare the youth to learn better skills.
In other sessions, experts emphasised on the need to adapt to modern technology to benefit from e-learning. “The world has changed,” Dean of Karachi School of Business and Leadership Shaukat Brah said, while highlighting the dependence on new technology. “We must change accordingly.”
Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2013.