Discussions about knowledge, skills and abilities—and the skills gap writ large—inevitably devolve into a dichotomy of “hard” and “soft” skills. Somehow, institutions of higher education teach those soft skills and the ability to learn how to learn for a lifetime. Jobs, on the other hand, teach you hard skills—implying a narrower kind of learning experience. Critics argue that employers should therefore own all training by keeping workers au courant of “useful knowledge and skills” for our rapidly evolving markets. College is much better-suited, as McCully argues, for the “permanent and characteristic mission of higher education,” or things that do not go “in and out of fashion with changes in economies or technologies.”
But these distinctions don’t help anyone—least of all, the student. Both employers and schools must enable people to skill up in both ways. By 2020, the U.S. economy will create 55 million job openings; 24 million will be entirely new positions. Many of these jobs (48%), according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, will be less physically intensive and instead emphasize skills like active listening as well as leadership, communication, analytics and administration competencies.
We need a GitHub for competencies in education and the workforce.