“The so-called skills gap doesn’t exist. Students have the skills. They just can’t prove them.” Jeffrey Moss, founder of Parker Dewey, argues that schools often are preparing their students for jobs in the marketplace - it’s just hard for students to prove those skills. “Students are graduating job ready. But the process right now discourages or even eliminates opportunities for students to explore for fit, or to prove to companies that they have the right skills.”
He’s not alone. There’s been a market for experiential learning - programs to help students connect what is learned in the classroom to the real world. Fifty-one percent of employers are moving to competency-based microlearning.
One popular idea has been apprenticeships: free intensive training followed by a job. From the White House to IBM’s apprenticeship program (tagline: “New Collar is about skills, not degrees”) there’s a movement to provide experiential learning. In Germany, more than half of all young people launch their careers with an apprenticeship. (Although only 3% of Americans have completed one).
But are they the right fit? Moss thinks they’re too rigid. “They can be incredibly valuable, but the model doesn’t scale given the cost and commitment of each apprenticeship. The whole process is high-stakes and high-risk, and apprenticeships don’t change that. Is a hiring manager willing to make a 10 week commitment to college student with a lower GPA, major that doesn’t sound like a job title, and from a college we haven’t recruited from? No. What if it’s one project and it will help me get some work done? Sure.”
Moss’ solution - and one that has been gaining traction - is Micro-Internships. Parker Dewey offers quick, one-off projects that have lower stakes for an employer. It helps the student understand how classroom skills translate to job responsibilities, and how to communicate those skills on resumes and in interviews.
Micro-Internships can be particularly helpful for students with majors that don’t sound like job titles. “Take philosophy - you’re learning to make an argument.” He says, “In fact, ‘soft skills’ are the ones most in demand by employers – in the NACE survey, the first technical skill was number eight.”
As Communications Director at Village Capital, Ben works on sharing what we’ve learned from our work in order to amplify our impact and help catalyze the fields of impact investing and entrepreneur support.