The stories research tells us about employment and education

Anthony Haynes writes: This week’s posts will comprise a mini-series looking at stories from and about the labour market, as told by researchers. Research can help us understand what’s going on in that market, both by providing facts and figures and by interpreting them to reveal the underlying stories – as experienced by employers and employees, actual and prospective.

We begin with a report from McKinsey and Co. entitled Education to employment: designing a system that works, a summary of which is published here.

The research is broadly based: it draws on (a) a survey of young people, employers, and education providers in nine countries (including the UK) and (b) a survey of over 100 education-to-employment initiatives in 25 countries.

Amongst the findings is the striking claim that the young people, employers, and education providers “live in parallel universes”. The three groups tell stories to explain the current youth labour market.

For example, the report finds that:

  • many youths and employers doubt that new graduates are well prepared for the world of work, in contrast to what most education providers believe;
  • many education providers believe that the main reason that young people drop out from education is that their find their courses too difficult, whereas few young people believe that.

The research probes the reason for the disconnect between the various stakeholders’ interpretations. It finds that the reason lies in a lack of engagement between the groups.

In view of the lack of dialogue that McKinsey identifies, the divergence between stakeholders’ stories is unsurprising, but concerning.


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