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Education to employment: Designing a system that works

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McKinsey & Company

McKinsey & Company

Young people can’t find jobs. Yet employers can’t find people with the right entry-level skills. How can we close this gap?

Around the world, governments and businesses face a conundrum: high levels of youth unemployment and a shortage of job seekers with critical skills. How can a country successfully move its young people from education to employment? What are the challenges? Which interventions work? How can these be scaled up? These are the crucial questions.

In this report, we attempt to answer them. To do so, we developed two unique fact bases. The first is an analysis of more than 100 education-to-employment initiatives from 25 countries, selected on the basis of their innovation and effectiveness. The second is a survey of youth, education providers, and employers in nine countries that are diverse in geography and socioeconomic context: Brazil, Germany, India, Mexico, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

We started this research recognizing the twin crises of a shortage of jobs and a shortage of skills. In the course of it, though, we realized we needed to take into account another key shortage: the lack of hard data. This deficiency makes it difficult to even begin to understand which skills are required for employment, what practices are the most promising in training youth to become productive citizens and employees, and how to identify the programs that do this best.

The state of the world’s knowledge about education to employment is akin to that regarding school-system reform a dozen years ago, prior to groundbreaking international assessments and related research. We hope this report helps fill this knowledge gap.