The global skills race - a view from Mauritius
Two of the ‘hot issues’ identified in the Skills OECD website are skills mismatch and skills shortages. Extensive statistics available on the website provide evidence that these issues are shared across the world, for different reasons and in different ways, but still, everyone seems affected. Interestingly, I was able to experience this directly as I was visiting two employers in the IT sector in Mauritius in May this year.
These employers have volunteered to provide work experience to 16 to 18 year olds who will be embarking next January on an innovative two year curriculum, designed by the Mauritius Examinations Syndicate, in collaboration with Cambridge International and OCR. This curriculum consists of Cambridge International AS in Global Perspectives, three other AS and A Levels, combined with OCR Cambridge Technical in IT and five weeks work experience across the two years of the course. The work experience is directly linked to the course and provides the context for some of the assessment for the AS in Global Perspectives as well as most of the context for the assessment of Cambridge Technical in IT, a vocational qualification equivalent to an A Level.
When I asked the employers why they had volunteered to take on these young people, their response was consistent with the OECD’s ‘hot issues’: the difficulty in recruiting young people with the right skills. In the past they have tried to recruit IT graduates but have been consistently disappointed: the world of new technologies is evolving at such a speed that it is impossible for degree courses to keep up to date. The key quality they are looking for is the ability to learn quickly and independently, to adapt constantly.
What the young people gain in turn is not only real work-related skills, but also an insight into a sector they are interested in, while keeping open their options for the future: they will be better prepared to enter the world of work after completing the course, but they could also choose to pursue their education further as all the qualifications included in the course are recognised as allowing progression into further study.
Although I am only at the beginning of my travels, I have been able to experience the reality of the global skills race. I believe it will be a long distance race that could be won by education systems that embrace vocational qualifications and compulsory work experience alongside academic qualifications as part of a coherent and well-rounded secondary curriculum.
Head of International Projects, Oxford Cambridge and RSA
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