Tuesday, June 20, 2017
9:00 AM - 10:30 AM EDT Download iCalendar entry for this event.
Urban Institute
2100 M St NW
Washington DC

Enabling Policy Environments to Bridge the Skills Gap

Often education systems and employers fail to align the skills taught in public institutions to the skills demanded in the private sector workplace. Policy environments need to be supportive to transform how education systems and labor markets act together to provide soft skills that will offer concrete pathways for disadvantaged youth worldwide. What are some examples that are trying to enable these environments? How can education systems better align curriculum and courses to prepare students to succeed professionally? What role do private sector employers play in the school-to-work pipeline, and what role does the education system play in ensuring students are thriving professionally? How can we design solutions to reduce inequality and biases related to gender, ethnicity and beyond?

We hope to engage different stakeholders in a conversation around the opportunities and challenges that enable policy environments to support youth education and employability programming aimed at developing soft skills. This conversation will bring examples both from the US and overseas to compare stakeholder experiences and to share lessons learned with SID-W members. Come discuss more with like-minded development experts.

Ana Florez, FHI 360, gave a brief overview of the workgroup and mentioned other opportunities to participate in future events. After briefly explaining the format of the discussion, she invited the moderator Megan Meinen to begin the event.

Megan Meinen, USAID, first defined the skills gap as the discrepancy between the educational skills youth gain in schools and the skills needed to succeed in the private and professional sectors. She then invited each panelist to give a brief introduction, and asked specifically how each member works to bridge the skills gap.

Tonija Navas, Howard University, explained the historic significance of the university as a Historically Black College or University (HBCU), and how it plays a large role in preparing Black college students for career opportunities in tech, business, and public service. She elaborated on the university’s student enrichment programs with companies like Google, and public institutions like the U.S Department of State, as efforts to give Howard students real-life skills and experiences to succeed as professionals.

Sara Akbar, Oracle, gave an extensive overview of how her organization has launched initiatives in various countries to train educators on how to teach technology development (such as coding) to their students. She went on to explain the successes of her programs in countries like Egypt and Indonesia, where teaching tech jobs can save people from poverty.

Lisa Johnson, FHI 360, shared similar initiatives in her organization, likes the Bridge to Employment partnership program with Johnson & Johnson, that invites educators to health care labs to train them on how to teach their students applicable scientific techniques. Ms. Johnson also highlighted that the skills gap is not as drastic in communities were partners and project leaders are invested in the livelihood of its people.

Ms. Meinen asked the panelists to elaborate on what the education sector can do to collaborate with the policy environment to solve skill-based discrepancies. Ms. Akbar mentioned that educational institutions should be aware of the needs of the communities at hand. She also noted that failing to do so could create a surplus labor in work that may not be in high demand in these given communities.

Ms. Navas also commented that education systems should be preparing students with intellectual and critical thinking skills before students enroll in higher education.

Finally, Ms. Meinen asked the panelists to go over what role the private sector plays in bridging the skills gap. Ms. Johnson urged private sector leaders to carefully examine the problems occurring in each community instead of directly providing job opportunities without cultural or regional context.

Thanking the panelists, Ms. Meinin then handed the floor over to the audience for questions.

For photos of the event, please click here


Youth and Workforce Development Specialist, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) Bureau, USAID


Director, Government Affairs, Oracle
Project Manager, Bridges to Employment, FHI360
Deputy Director, Ralph Bunche International Affairs Center, Howard University

Workgroup Co-Chairs

Senior Development Officer, Juárez & Associates (J&A)
Technical Advisor, Latin America Education, FHI 360
For more information contact Paul Sherman at: [email protected]