Europeans confident about their future jobs… but not their education

‘Tumo’, is a Paris-based free school for children aged between 12 and 18 who want to discover digital technology. [Photo Tumo]

A majority of young Europeans (77%) feel well prepared for the labour market of the digital era, but they are also very critical about how their national education systems prepare them, a survey published on Thursday (21 February) revealed.

Employers (79%) and education stakeholders (73%) are also convinced that young people are well prepared for the future of work, according to an IPSOS survey conducted for WISE and JobTeaser.

However, recruiters and the education community are more critical about the level of preparedness among current workers (35% of recruiters and 42% of education stakeholders think these people are well prepared).

The impact of artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, new mobile communications (5G) and other technologies is transforming how we live and work. But the so-call fourth industrial revolution also risks leaving many people without jobs.

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In this era of Uber drivers, Deliveroo riders and freelancers, the new generation of workers could end up having more than ten jobs during their career, compared with a job for life in their parents’ generation.

“These transitions can be voluntary or involuntary, but inevitably require new knowledge, skills and mindsets, flexibility and adaptability,” the Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, Marianne Thyssen, said recently.

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Despite the growing anxiety about the fast-changing world of work, the study shows that more than three-quarters of young Europeans are optimistic when they think of the way people will work in 10 years (78%).

This optimism is shared by recruiters and education professionals.

More than 3,000 people were interviewed online in France, Germany, Spain, the UK and Belgium, including recruiters and education stakeholders.

Instead of seeing the arrival of smart machines as job-stealers, young Europeans see technological progress as the primary reason for their optimism.

Education failure

Education systems, in particular life-long learning programmes to provide upskilling and retraining for workers, are seen as a basic tool to bolster workers’ employability and resilience against more unstable career path.

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However, all the groups interviewed for the survey were very critical when they judged how their countries’ education systems prepare young people for the job market.

Less than half of young people think it prepares them well for their first job (48%), while only 49% of education stakeholders agree with that statement.

Recruiters are even more critical: less than one in four are positive about the contribution that their national education system makes, be it for entering the job market (23%) or for their later careers (11%).

A majority of young people were satisfied only in Belgium and Germany.

For the interviewees, the priority for their national education systems should be developing work experience, including entrepreneurial initiatives.

For that reason, the three groups considered vocational schools as the best institutions to prepare young people for the future of work and provide career advice, especially in countries like Spain.

For Andreas Schleicher, director for the directorate of education and skills at the OECD, “we should create bridges through training and internship early on, to make learning more relevant, more interesting, more genuine.”

“It’s not only numbers on a board, learning should be something to experiment. It’s about bringing people to the real world, and showing them what jobs really entail,” he added.

Uncertainty dampens European growth

Euro area economy is expected to slow down more markedly than initially expected, because of the impact of increasing risks, including a disorderly Brexit, and external tensions primarily driven by the US-China trade war.

The most worrying aspect of the looming job market is the economic outlook, including growth and employment rate.

Only 45% of employers and 46% of education stakeholders are optimistic about this, along with 51% of young Europeans (60% of Germans, but only 41% of the French).

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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