High youth unemployment a problem around world & California

150 150 Ed Coghlan

Forty-five percent of U.S. employers say a skill shortage is major reason why jobs go unfilled.
(Photo Credits: 
Robert Stern/Flickr & FEMA)

The urgent problem of high youth unemployment exists because there is a disconnect among employers, educators and youth.

That’s the consensus of a research report issued by the McKinsey Center for Government which conducted a global webcast Monday on the issue of how education is, or is not, preparing people for work.

“They (employers, educators and youth) live in parallel universes,” said Mona Mourshed, Director and Leaders of the Global Education Practice at McKinsey and Company on the release webcast

Seventy-two percent of the educators surveyed think their graduates are ready for the workforce, while less than half of employers and youth that were interviewed across nine countries believe that to be the case.

In the United States, only 44 percent of the young people think that education is improving their chances of getting a job. Youth unemployment is a huge problem and the numbers are staggering. Seventy-five million youth worldwide are not working. 


In California alone, the number approaches 1 million. California Forward reported on a news story last week that said just under 900,000 Californians between the ages of 16 and 24 are neither in school nor working. 

“For these students, education alone may not be sufficient relevance. We need to have more earn and learn strategies, like apprenticeships, where these individuals can be brought into the workforce and we build their skills in partnership with their employers,” said Von Ton-Quinlivan, Vice Chancellor of workforce and economic development, California Community College Chancellor’s Office.

Vice Chancellor Ton-Quinlivan is a member of the California Economic Summit Action Team on workforce development, which, not surprisingly, is one of Seven Signature Initiatives the Summit is pursuing in its effort to improve job creation and the state’s ability to compete in a global economy.

One company that was highlighted by the McKinsey webcast and that is investing in workforce development is Siemens USA. It’s President and CEO Eric Spiegel has been talking about this issue. In a Financial Times story, Speigel said his company has been forced to use 30 recuiters because of the inadequate state of education and training in the U.S.


The McKinsey Research showed that employers, by and large, aren’t investing enough support to fuel the talent pipeline that many believe is running dry. 

Only 31 percent of companies surveyed actively invest in workforce development and are seeing results. The others either don’t invest at all (44 percent) or invest sporadically and aren’t seeing results.

But there’s hope. McKinsey says there are many examples around the world of educators and employers working well together and producing potential employees ready for the jobs that are available. 

“The question is how we scale it up,” said Ms. Mourshed. 

She outlined three things need to happen for critical mass to help drive a solution to the pressing problem of a trained work force.

  1. Better Data to show success. If parents and their children could see data on job placement rates and salaries from different schools, that would be important information to have. 
  2. Sector Wide Collaboration. If industry worked together and with school to improve curriculum and performance, this would help better prepare the students to the workforce
  3. Create an Integrator.  Designate entities to monitor the whole education-to-employment system and be a catalyst for adoption of best practices and programs that work around the world.  

McKinsey & Company, which sponsored the research and webcast, is a global business consulting firm. 


Ed Coghlan

All stories by: Ed Coghlan