THE BLOG

Young People: the Inefficient Allocation of Human Resources

26/03/2013 14:23 GMT | Updated 24/05/2013 10:12 BST

Ok, I think we can all agree on one thing: all theory and no practice makes Jack an unemployable boy.

Excuse the clumsy proverb, but the message is simple: whether the economy is up or down it's simply not enough for young people just to be exam-passing desk monkeys.

Young people need to have real world smarts as well as book smarts.

That addressed, I now want to move on and look at another worrying trend. A trend that is associated with the all-theory-and-no-practice issue and which in fact precedes and aggravates this problem.

Here it is: not only are secondary and third level educators failing to educate young people about how the real world works, but they're also failing to properly guide young people towards sustainable careers in the first place.

This causes an unfortunate reality. As it was put by the Financial Times: Teens aspire to wrong jobs.

For example: the legal economy is tanking and as a result most students have 'no hope of a job'. Yet thousands of young people are still applying for places at law school. Hmm...

On the other hand: the engineering economy is buoyant and job opportunities are plentiful. Yet recent analysis by the Social Market Foundation has said that the UK will need to have 40,000 more science and engineering graduates each year to meet the projected increase in demand by high technology businesses.

The headline from the FT follows a study produced by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. The short of the report is that young people are pursuing careers which represent only a small fraction of future job vacancies.

As a result of this the authors of the report added that many young people are learning too late on in the day that they have chosen the wrong career path. This then leads onto a period of "churn" where the misallocated young adults have to re-skill and readjust to the demands of the labour market.

This represents a serious problem. As the Social Market Foundation said it's thwarting attempts to re-balance the UK economy. It's also serious waste of young people's time, money and resources.

It is in effect the inefficient and misallocation of human resources.

But whose fault is it? I'm always open to rebuttal but I genuinely feel that responsibility for this grave error falls squarely at the feet at educators.

There will never be perfect information in a marketplace. However, educators should be in a position to align the education system with the real world and so make the information balance as perfect as possible.

Unfortunately, as the latest study suggests, educators aren't meeting or discharging this responsibility.

Writing previously on the Huffington Post this is what I've called, Education's Information Asymmetry.

The reality is that educators aren't closing the information gap between education and the real world.

The bottom line is that young people aren't being given the correct career guidance. The bottom line is that we are failing our young people.

So what can we do?

Firstly, we need to create a more symbiotic relationship between education and the world of work so that the transition from school or education and into work is as seamless as possible.

Secondly, we need to ensure that all young people are given genuine, sincere and market-informed career guidance. Not the sort of wishy washy stuff that had passed off for employability support in recent years.

Thirdly, as I've said before and connected to the first point, young people, their educators and parents need to think like investors when choosing a career.

By this I mean that young people and those around them need to take the long view so that they can allocate their resources wisely and in alignment with the demands of the labour market.

Fourthy, as Gillian Tett suggested, we need to ask ourselves: 'is it time for Europeans (including young people in the UK) to migrate?'

In the current economic climate it may be the case that young people may have to migrate in order to pursue the career they really want.

Fifthly, it's often the case that children from privileged backgrounds can avail of contacts in high places and call upon informed parents who can fill the information gap which teachers ignore.

In response to this it would be wise to consider aligning a young person with a suitable mentor who is further up the career chain. The role of the mentor would be like that of a bridge, thereby closing the gap between education and the world of work.

There's a great article here which explores this idea.

Finally, young people should really concentrate the mind towards plugging themselves into the knowledge and connected economy. They should think about using social media, blogging and creating a web presence in a professional manner that aids and promotes their employability prospects.

Famous blogger on personal branding, Dan Schawbel has said that while young people use technology like it's a third arm, many fail to see the power of digital media for creating a professional profile.