Guido Jouret, ABB’s chief digital officer, singled out the U.S. education system, which pushes students toward two- or four-year degrees. Colleges tend to be less nimble when it comes to keeping up with technological changes, and companies will seek workers who can adapt to cutting-edge developments.
Germany, in contrast, encourages technical training, which is generally more reactive to immediate employer needs. In that country, 60% of young adults train as apprentices in manufacturing, IT, banking, construction and other fields, compared with 5% in the United States.
“We lack this vocational training track,” said Jouret, who works in San Francisco.
Susan Lund, a labor economist at the global consulting firm McKinsey, said U.S. students tend to feel more pressure to take the university route, even if it’s outside their budget.
“Not everyone needs a four-year college degree,” she said. “We could do a lot to build more career pathways. Even just skill-credentialing to enable people to get a basic, entry-level job.”
In China, meanwhile, the government is updating public education to prioritize creativity, rather than acing standardized tests. One 2015 public policy experiment in Shanghai gave students another chance to take a college admission exam, which was meant to curb stress and reduce the focus on memorization.
“They are considering relaxing exam pressure,” Harry Patrinos, practice manager for education, East Asia and Pacific at the World Bank, is quoted as saying in the ABB report.
Economists say such efforts are aimed at training children and young adults to value independent thinking over regurgitation — a trait robots can’t yet replicate.
Then, there’s reading.