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THE BRIDGE OF SOUTHERN NEW MEXICO

Changing nature of work: The difference between skills, degrees

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The pandemic has spurred a rapid increase in a host of trends, but perhaps none more dramatic than the changing world of work.

This was a significant topic of the conversations at Innovate+Educate’s summit this year. I+E has been leading the charge on a transition away from traditional hiring practices based primarily on degrees to one based on skills, which would then bring more otherwise qualified workers into more high-value careers.

This transition is really key to opening wide the talent pool for employers. Degree inflation (requiring college degrees for jobs that don’t actually need them) became a major factor after the Great Recession of 2008, but today is at the heart of labor shortages faced by employers. Thinking differently about talent and sources of talent is no longer a “nice to have” but rather a “must have.”

According to data from the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, there are 0.24 available workers for every one job opening. This is a crisis for New Mexico, as we seek to spark both economy and economic prosperity for our families. We have talent – how do we mobilize them to step into and grow job opportunities here? How do we look at all of those in our high schools, colleges, and universities and help them make the shift, too? And how do our employers think differently about jobs and talent?

Nicole Overley, senior partner with Deloitte Consulting, opened wide this window into the shifting world of work at this year’s summit.  

She pointed to the trends that reflected:

The Great Exhaustion, in which actual time working has increased during the pandemic, due in part to remote work, and the fact that 1.4 million women have left the workforce

The Great Resignation, in which 14 million have left the workforce all together

The Great Reshuffle, in which one-third of US workers have moved out of their cities and almost one-half plan to apply for new jobs not near their homes.

These challenges will require great solutions, which she characterized as the future of meaningful work:

Rearchitecting work from the standpoint of how to produce work outcomes through the integration of technology and valuing work

Adapting the workplace -- changes in work environment, including physical design, culture and collaboration

Elevating the workforce, which includes thinking broadly about talent and options for workers to engage in ways like crowd sourcing, gig workers, contractors, as well as employees

As employers are agile and able to adapt to these changes, they’ll be more successful in attracting and retained the skilled workers they need. But it is also incumbent upon all in the education space to help our talent be ready for this seismic shift in the world of work, too.

We know exactly a core set of foundational skills required by the local employers who participated in our Industry Roundtables in 2020-21. They include:

Math Skills:  adding and subtracting; multiplying and dividing; taking or interpreting measurements; using fractions, decimals, and percentages.

Reading, Writing, and Language Skills: applying information that is read; correct spelling and grammar in writing; identifying main points from written content; assessing credibility of written content; reading at a reasonable speed; production of clear writing.

Employability Skills: communication; self-management; interpersonal skills; initiative; teamwork; professionalism; enthusiasm and attitude; problem solving and critical thinking.

Technology Skills:  using computers and computer programs; entering data; writing and responding to emails; using word processing programs (MS Word); adapting to and learning new technology.

Digital Literacy:  evaluating the credibility of digital sources; accessing information to troubleshoot problems with technology; using digital resources to learn new skills;

understanding online risks.

As our teachers, instructors and professors equip our students with these skills, and as our employers are agile and able to adapt and shift their own hiring practices and workplaces, Doña Ana County will continue to build out our “ecosystem of opportunity,” ensuring our economic growth and success for the long-term.

Tracey Bryan is president/CEO of The Bridge of Southern New Mexico. She can be reached at TraceyBryan@thebridgeofsnm.org