Themes Tackling Youth Unemployment

Globally, 75 million young people are unemployed, but businesses can't find enough skilled workers to fill job vacancies. How can a country tackle the Education to Employment challenge?

Youth Opportunity: McKinsey partners with TEDxUNPlaza

Just before the 2013 United Nations General Assembly, McKinsey partnered with TEDxUNPlaza to present our latest thinking on the jobs picture that young people are facing globally. The McKinsey Quarterly published three perspectives on the future of education and its role in preparing youth for today’s jobs, and Mona Mourshed, Global Director of our Education Practice, delivered a TED talk on her related experiences.


The TEDxUNPlaza team reached out to Andre Dua, who helps lead the firm’s work on higher education, to discuss the ongoing debate over traditional educational practices, the growing potential of online education, and how various institutions are leveraging these platforms to improve the quality of higher education. Below is an excerpt from that conversation.

Q: What inspired you to get into higher education?

Three things. First, my father is a university professor. Second, my mother is an elementary school teacher. And third, my wife is in education reform working within the K-12 sector. What struck me specifically with my wife’s work is that, in the US, we have been paying a lot of attention to K-12 education, which clearly is an important issue. The next, and equally important issue, is what you do after school and how we prepare people to be successful in the world of work. There is a great opportunity to take a fresh look at the sector and build on its many strengths; but at the same time, to evolve and innovate in ways that contribute to young people having more productive working lives. The most important question is how do we get the higher education sector in the US back to the point of competitive advantage, while putting it on a slightly different trajectory.

Q: What do you find particularly alarming about the state of higher education?

There is a pretty large debate going on right now about higher education and how it can make a greater contribution, particularly as the economy has become more challenging. There are a lot of voices in that debate — universities, faculty, policy makers, et cetera. But what is increasingly missing from the debate is what graduates are actually thinking, which is also very important.

After conducting a survey for 6-8 months with 5,000 recent graduates about their collegiate experiences, we amassed some pretty astounding data:

  • Of everyone surveyed who attends/attended a 4-year college, nearly half are in jobs that do not require a 4-year degree; about 42% are broadly overqualified for the jobs they are doing.
  • 1 in 3 graduates do not feel like college prepared them for the world of work.
  • Slightly over 50% of respondents said they would either choose a different institution, major of study, or both.

We also found that there was a disconnect between what industry students expected to go into prior to graduation, and the industries in which they actually ended up working. For example, about six times as many graduates ended up working in retail or hospitality than originally wanted to before graduation. In short, the real issues are stemming from the notion that graduates are feeling overqualified, underprepared, have some regrets in relation to their studies, and find it difficult to land in the career they actually wanted.

» Read the complete interview on the TEDxUNPlaza website


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

E-mail alerts

Get our latest knowledge emailed to you

Follow us