Within five years, The McKinsey Global Institute predicts a global deficit of over 85 million high- and medium-skilled workers and a global surplus of nearly 100 million unskilled workers. In the United States, about two-thirds of companies already find themselves unable to fill positions due to a lack of qualified applicants—the resulting reduction in economic output costs the U.S. economy an estimated $2 trillion per year. In India, where over 12 million young people join the labor force every year, an even more acute skills gap has far reaching socio-economic implications; just two percent of the nearly 500 million-person workforce can be classified as skilled. Although India has world-renowned educational institutions, such as the Indian Institute of Technology, the vast majority of students are ill-prepared for the demands of the modern labor market due to outdated curriculum and a lack of qualified instructors. A 2012 study by the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and EY noted that to meet vocational training needs, the country will require 70,000 additional instructors. Currently qualified instructors are entering the market at a rate of only 1,600 per year. The Indian government has an ambitious plan to upskill 500 million people by 2020 through the National Skill Development Mission, but innovative approaches that incorporate the public, private and social sectors will be required to fully address the challenge.
Lend a Hand, a non-profit organization started in 2003, collaborates with organizations working at the grassroots level to replicate proven programs that can improve low income people’s access to education, vocational skills, and career opportunities. The founders recognized that the current secondary school curriculum in India does not equip students with the relevant skills for daily work and life in modern India. That gap creates a significant challenge to their employability upon graduation. Lend a Hand integrates job and life skills training in existing school curricula to make secondary school education more practical and relevant to the students.
The program takes a hands-on approach to vocational education. Local trade practitioners train both male and female students across a variety of potential professions. As the organization’s co-founder Raj Gilda notes, “Everybody wants to go to school and everybody wants to get a certificate. So, we set up training workshops as labs within the school itself, bringing in members of the community to train within the school.”
Lend a Hand’s results are truly impressive. In participating schools, more than 95 percent of students attend the training programs. Graduates have three times the rate of self-employment, and over 30 percent more students are pursuing higher technical education than in non-participating schools. Due to its success, the Government of Maharashtra, where Mumbai is located, has entered into an agreement with the organization to oversee the day-to-day management of a program that will roll-out vocational education to 1,500 schools for more than 200,000 students across the state.
The private sector has recognized that the skills gap, both in India and globally, has implications for their abilities to meet long term business goals. IBM and JPMorgan Chase have both taken a leadership role– engaging their core capabilities to create innovative solutions to address the issue.
In 2013, JP Morgan Chase launched New Skills at Work, the largest private-sector effort working to address this challenge. The goal of this initiative is to invest in people so that workers and industries have the skills to compete and prosper in the global economy. Since its launch, JP Morgan Chase has leveraged its resources, expertise, and global reach to accelerate demand-driven skills training in cities across the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.
“IBM and JPMorgan Chase have a long term, valued relationship which extends beyond business operations. We knew that IBM’s program was a best-in-class International Corporate Volunteerism model that we would be able to learn from and test out as a pilot offering for JPMorgan Chase employees.” – JPMorgan Chase
IBM is the founder of one of the most innovative workforce development initiatives in recent years: P-TECH. Through this regional education and economic development model, educators at the secondary and post-secondary levels join forces with local industries to respond to skills gaps that local employers have identified, ensuring that students graduate with the skills that the companies’ require now and in the future.
This spring, the companies took their commitment to skills development to India. Sixteen employees from JPMorgan Chase and IBM spent a month working on capacity building projects with three Indian organizations in Mumbai, including Lend a Hand. They tackled the local skills gap through their global pro bono programs: the IBM Corporate Service Corps and the JPMorgan Chase International Service Corps.
Lend a Hand needed assistance to scale their successful program, integrating the organization into the existing government educational infrastructure across 36 districts. Two employees from JPMorgan Chase and two employees from IBM teamed up to develop a strategic framework, including approaches for communication and monitoring and evaluation. The project challenged the corporate employees to think not only about the big picture, but also the details to execute successfully across the state. “Having two different skill sets was beneficial,” said the organization’s co-founder Raj Gilda, “JPMorgan Chase brought the big-picture thinking while IBM took care of all the details. They complemented each other very well.”
While the long term impact of the program will help close the skills gap in India, the short term impact is the improvement of professional and leadership skills amongst the participants themselves. According to Jessica Jennings at JPMorgan Chase, ‘A number of the JPMorgan Chase employees noted that their experience was the best professional development opportunity of their career’. John DiMarco, a Corporate Citizenship program manager at IBM remarked at how the integration of employees from two different companies provided even more value. “The participant feedback we received from each IBM employee,” DiMarco said, “revealed that by including employees from another company, the IBMers learned about new ways to work and how business is conducted in different fields. This also helped them deepen relationships with important clients.”
Around the world, employers, educators, policymakers, training organizations, and others have recognized the critical importance of tackling the skills gap—and the cross-sector partnerships required to bridge the gap. Helping people develop the skills they need to compete for today’s jobs transforms lives and strengthens economies. By engaging the talent and expertise of their employees and partnering with social sector organizations like Lend a Hand, companies like IBM and JP Morgan Chase can address the skills gap while laying the foundation for their own future success.