Jobs and skills: more answers to your questions

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Image(Last week, I posted: “Wanted: Jobs and your questions about how to find them” on this blog. We received dozens of questions back through social media. Lars Sondergaard, a World Bank expert on education, answered some of them in a video and now he gets to a few more here. He throws out some questions of his own and would love to hear back from you. — Anne Elicaño)

Anonymous asked through the blog: I was wondering about job outlook for chemical and mechanical engineers in the future”

If you are just about to graduate as an engineer and worry whether you will be able to find a job, I have some good news: in most countries, too few students study engineering relative to the jobs available with the results that engineering graduates tend to have an easier time finding employment than their peers. A lot is written about this vibrant demand, check out this article in Forbes about the demand for engineers  (or the World Bank’s “Putting Higher Education to Work: Skills and Research for Growth”)

I don’t what the situation is like in your country but it is often harder to get a “free” (such as government-sponsored) seat in a social sciences program than it is in the engineering department. What are your views on why this is so?

Alain from Dubai, through the blog asks: “What are the trends in job vacancies around the world, i.e. where are the jobs, in which sectors we observed hikes, and what are the challenges in filling in these jobs?”

Similarly, Anonymous through Weibo asked: Employers tend to hire people who have majored in subjects that are directly related to their businesses. But university education, as compared to vocational education, emphasizes more on acquiring generic knowledge and skills. How can we deal with this contradiction?

The big picture on the job front is this: the jobs that are experiencing the biggest growth are jobs that involve “non-routine” tasks and, hence, involve higher skilled workers. A lot has been written about this, including recently by fellow blogger and colleague Frederico Gil Sander (I suggest you check out his report, “Malaysia Economic Monitor:  Modern Jobs”).

More and more workers are expected to solve unforeseen problems, learn new machines and methods on the job, and undertake complex tasks, and this implies more and better education. The clearest sign of this trend is that even though more and more people are completing a university education, it is still a very good investment to do so: university graduates are more likely to find a job, and they still earn significantly more than any other types of graduates.

You also asked what challenges employers are finding in filling these jobs, and let me answer this by addressing the questions asked from China (on the apparent contraction). We learn what challenges firms are facing by doing regular surveys of them (e.g. see and asking them that exact question.

Their answer to this varies quite a bit across countries and across time but two messages usually emerge from such surveys: first, firms across the world and across time always seem to complain that they can’t find workers with the right skills! I would love to get some feedback on why you think that is the case.

Second, firms consistently report that they are looking for more than workers with the right degree; rather, they are looking for workers with the right skills, which includes behavioral skills (e.g. conscientiousness, punctuality etc), and foreign language skills. In many countries (including Thailand, see “Leading with Ideas: Skills for Growth and Equity in Thailand”, figure 6) firms report that the least of their problems is finding a university graduate; rather, their main problem is finding one who is proficient in English.

Thanks for sending so many interesting questions, I hope my answers are of help. Find below the video where I tackled some other questions earlier. And I’m glad to continue the conversation on this blog if you have more comments. Cheers.


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