skills-gapIt seems like a contradiction in terms but the fact is that while young people in a number of countries face high levels of unemployment, more than a quarter of European employers are struggling to fill vacancies at the same time.

New research from McKinsey management consultants claims there is a skills gap between the needs of employers and the “over-optimistic” view that education providers are taking when it comes to work skills.

‘Education to Employment: Getting Europe’s Youth into Work’ examined the recruiting difficulties faced by employers in eight major European economies, including France, Italy, Germany, Spain and the UK, as well as the reasons why many young Europeans struggle to find work.

The study, which surveyed 5,300 young people, 2,600 employers and 700 education providers, found a skills shortage was causing “major business problems” for 33% of the employers surveyed and that 27% of employers have vacant “entry level” positions. McKinsey director Mona Mourshed said the situation presented a “profound challenge for Europe”.

Declaring a “crisis level” of youth unemployment in the European Union where there are currently 5.6 million people up to the age of 25 without jobs, the study calls for a better alignment between the worlds of education and employment.

Only 35% of employers thought that young people were being equipped with adequate skills for work, but 74% of the education providers surveyed had confidence in the relevance of what they are teaching.

Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education and Youth, commented: “In Europe the mismatch between what our education systems are delivering and the needs of employers is resulting in a serious skills shortage and damaging the aspirations of Europe’s young people and, ultimately, our future prosperity.”

Ms Vassiliou said the research “could not be more timely” but added that the European Union was “committed to playing its part” by providing funding for training projects.

“The report has a clear message. Policymakers, educators and business must all break out of their silos and work together more closely to avert what is a growing crisis,” she concluded.

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