IESE Insight
Meeting the Challenges of Today's Labor Market
Pilar García-Lombardía
Editor: IESE
Artículo basado en: Armonizar educación con empleo en España: Un reto a 5 años
Año: 2014
Idioma: Spanish

With a youth unemployment rate above 50 percent, something is wrong with Spain's labor market. Managers are having a hard time recruiting the right talent, entrepreneurial spirit is scant and there is an obvious gap between labor supply and demand.

If companies cannot find the right employees, there will be serious consequences both for the firms themselves and for society in general, which will undercut the economy's competitiveness.

Part of the problem is that Spain's education system and its labor market are out of sync. To fix this, schools and businesses must work together, side by side, and change the status quo.

Over the medium term, the goal is to better prepare students leaving schools, vocational training centers and universities to enter the professions of the future and meet the demands of the 21st -century labor market.

This is the thesis of the report on reconciling education and employment in Spain, prepared by the International Research Center on Organizations (IRCO) of IESE in conjunction with Spanish consultancy Grupo Persona.

An Outdated Education System
The report is based on working sessions with 40 human resources experts and executives. The conclusion is clear: Spain's current education system -- based on structured learning, where the results are prioritized over the process -- does not suit the times we live in.

This behaviorist approach to education (emphasizing repetition, rewards and correction) leads to high drop-out rates, which drags on the economy. It also turns out thousands of students each year who have significant gaps in their competencies and emotional wherewithal: they cannot cope with failure and they lack entrepreneurial spirit.

Meanwhile, companies of the 21st century are seeking entrepreneurial talent -- workers with initiative who know how to back up their arguments. They want people who are flexible, knowledgeable, multilingual, eager to learn and able to adapt to new, unstable settings. They want people who are self-starters, willing to live abroad and capable of dealing with change and handling setbacks.

In sum, companies are increasingly seeking out balanced and mature workers who bring commitment, productivity and a competitive edge to work.

Moving Toward Dual Education?
To serve this new relationship between companies and their employees, a change in the entire education process is needed: starting with the first years of schooling, going all the way through university.

For starters, schools should ditch the old blackboard-desk model based on theoretical learning (which is often outdated), in which the lack of knowledge of companies' real needs is alarming.

The new educational model must develop students' attitudes and skills, without neglecting their emotional intelligence or singular features that distinguish them from the rest.

In this new paradigm, collaboration from companies is vital, as is already the case with vocational training or with the system of dual training (which combines apprenticeships in companies with classroom training), as seen in Germany and other countries.

Additional recommendations from the report include boosting the status of vocational training, encouraging students to have an entrepreneurial mindset and providing proper guidance so they know how to make decisions regarding their future careers.

Universities That Are Out of Touch
Sectors related to technology, health care and environmental sciences will create thousands of jobs over the medium and long term. But do Spanish universities offer the right kind of preparation to the 220,000 students graduating every year?

Experts agree that many of today's youth start their first internships and actual jobs disorientated, with their heads in the clouds. Many do not even know what they want to do.

Also critical are the shortfalls in developing communication and language skills and/or competitiveness, putting Spanish university graduates at a serious disadvantage when it comes to competing with candidates from other countries.

The report states that the high level of unemployment among Spain's university graduates is due to a lack of collaboration between companies and universities. Resolving this disconnect requires the Spanish government to get involved.

The study also says that this can only be achieved through an urgent and thorough transformation of the university system, which must focus on people rather than on content.

This requires a commitment to cutting red tape, reorganizing training programs and developing certain skills among students.

The report points out the lack of a national strategy to set goals and effective policies for boosting competitiveness. In such a national strategy, Spain's government, businesses, families, institutions and people would all be required to assume new responsibility and adopt new mindsets.

It is the only possible way to successfully meet the challenges of a future that is changing all the time.

© IESE Business School - University of Navarra