How The Skills Gap is Causing Unnecessary Deaths

POST DATE Jan 14, 2021

AUTHOR

It is January 2021 and the world is still in a pandemic. Only now we have hope: vaccines are rolling out and we can look forward to a return to a more normal life as an increasing number of people get immunized.

That’s great but, as you may agree, it’s not happening fast enough so we can finally put this pandemic behind us. The problem, it seems, is partially due to the age old “skills gap” that I’ve been talking about for years.

The Skills Gap In Vaccine Manufacturing

The reality is we don’t have enough skilled workers available to solve the pandemic quickly. And because of this lack of skilled workers, we’re not able to ramp up vaccine manufacturing fast enough.

The skills required to make vaccines don’t exist at a fast food franchise, supermarket or retail clothing store. They require training. I think you would agree you might feel a little uneasy about receiving a high-tech vaccine if it was made by someone who got all their training flippin’ burgers.

I'm not saying that these people aren’t smart but that’s different than feeling comfortable knowing that they made the vaccine that’s going into my arm! It’s hard enough to get people to trust vaccines when they’re made by people who were trained…

The Consequences of the Skills Gap

That being said, we know many people will still die in the coming months because of our inability to solve the skills gap and quickly ramp up vaccine production.

Family members will be lost forever. Does anything else strike harder at the heart of the matter? This is why it’s so critical for us to solve this.

It’s not just about preventing the loss of manufacturing jobs or a slowing economy. It has life and death implications.

4 Key Issues That Need To Be Addressed

Over the last several years, many of us have sounded off and tried moving the system to work harder at getting more people into trades and skilled areas.

The problems though are systematic. Here are four key challenges I've identified that we need to overcome in order to solve the larger problem that is the skills gap.

1. Education funding

There are so many smart young people that could potentially assist in solving the gap but they can’t afford the education or training required. They lose and we lose, as we can see today where we can’t make vaccines quickly enough to protect those who could become sick.

We’re not putting enough money into education to allow young people to get a proper education and skills if they can’t afford it.

2. Parents’ expectations 

Parents love their children and want what’s best for them. Unfortunately, they become part of the problem as they often place high expectations and want their kids to follow a certain path (usually: attend university).

Many of these children become lost, sometimes because they can’t get the marks to get into a university. Unfortunately what happens next is:

Nothing.

A long period of time elapses while they try to ground themselves before they go figure out what to do with their lives. As time goes by and they need to move on, they start making desperate decisions, landing…wherever and ending up…nowhere.

Many times, this path that starts with parents’ high hopes for their children doesn’t lead to a skilled worker and we as a society miss out.

3. The education system’s focus on university

Our education system has been designed to not generate skilled workers.

Like parents, it assumes that success means going to university. You may want to challenge this idea but I’ve seen local career days where only institutes of higher learning were invited.

Why? Because our education system believes that all children deserve a chance to go to these institutions.

Is that bad? No, but it does reveal a bias. Don’t believe me? What did I just call university two paragraphs above? “Institutes of higher learning”. So if you do something else, that’s considered lower learning.

Aside of this bias (or because of it), there’s also a lack the funding that prevents some schools from exposing students to alternatives in the work force. Like becoming a skilled worker.

4. Us 

Yes, you and me! We’re also a part of the problem. We've continuously neglected doing anything to solve the skills gap.

Oh sure, we love to complain about it! But what does complaining achieve? I guess we assumed that some really smart person (who probably went to an institute of higher learning) would have heard us complain by now, said “Good point” and solved it.

We did get a vaccine in record time, did we not? That’s a win: we came together and got the vaccine developed and approved that quickly. But, if we can’t come together to solve the skills gap and get these vaccines manufactured faster, we lose.

We can’t just sit around and complain about the skills gap. We have to fix it. No one’s going to do it for us.

Supporting Front-Line Workers

Like I said, we’ve developed a vaccine in record time and that’s amazing. Too many people have died; too many families have lost treasures.

And in the midst of it all, I’m grateful to all those who stood up on the front lines to help the sick. They weren’t just risking their own lives for the greater good, they were risking their families’ lives too.

We need to have a serious think about the fact that we could support them in the future with a culture that puts more emphasis on creating skilled workers and solving the skills gap.

Today, that could get more vaccines into more arms faster. Today, that could protect our front-line workers and the people in their care.

Today, that could save lives. Wouldn’t that be worth the effort?



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