Posted January 26, 2021 by Mark Perna
Covid-19 is setting young people back—academically and, someday, professionally. Mark’s article, “3 Ways To Address Education Scarring In Your Talent Pipeline,” published at Forbes.com on January 19, 2021.
Career scarring has been on people’s minds lately, with a generation of young people launching their careers in the midst of a pandemic-induced economic downturn. The effects of career scarring—defined as a long-term trend of lower salaries and higher unemployment rates for college graduates who launch their careers in a struggling economy—can linger long past the recession.
But what about education scarring?
A recent McKinsey & Co. study found that students are averaging three months’ loss of learning in mathematics, and one and a half months in reading. These numbers are higher for students of color, many of whom may lack the resources necessary for online learning to take place. “While all students are suffering, those who came into the pandemic with the fewest academic opportunities are on track to exit with the greatest learning loss,” the study notes.
The learning gaps due to Covid-19 shutdowns have many educators worried. While the education system routinely deals with the “summer slide”—the loss of learning that occurs every year over the eight-week summer break—the Covid-19 slide is harder to tackle, not least because classes are still remote for many districts.
But education scarring isn’t just a problem for education. Eventually, business and industry will also feel the effects. The long-term impact of education scarring may create a delayed career-scarring effect that will directly undermine employers’ ability to hire effectively.Education scarring isn’t just a problem for education. Click To Tweet
More students may graduate high school and move into postsecondary career training (or straight into their careers) with less knowledge and skills under their belt than they would have had minus Covid. In the big picture, education scarring is going to be everyone’s problem.
Even when the pandemic is behind us, it will leave its share of scars. Here are three ways to prepare.
First, realize that education scarring could affect your talent pipeline. The pandemic’s long-term effects on the workforce won’t end when it’s safe to return to the office. There’s the cohort of career-scarred workers who may struggle to attain promotions and wages on par with their non-scarred peers. And then the next generation of workers may enter the workforce at a disadvantage due to their educational experience being scarred by the pandemic.
Companies have had more than enough on their plate last year, pivoting to do business in a fast-changing climate. But as things level off, start thinking about your next generation of skilled workers. They’re going to be affected by the challenging learning conditions that marked their education in 2020. Skills-gap industries in particular need to recognize—and start planning for—this eventuality.
Second, amp up your in-house training. The education system in America is innovating faster than ever before, trying to serve students in the midst of unprecedented times. But it was never built for extended periods of distance learning, and rebuilding an entire system around that current societal necessity takes time.
For employers, this means creating on-the-job training with the flexibility to take a step back into the soft and technical skills that students didn’t get to learn in high school. Effective employee training will be proactive, comprehensive and customizable to the individual strengths and weaknesses of the employee.
Third, create a light at the end of their tunnel—and shine it. Every generation works hardest and achieves most when there’s a clear reward at the end of our effort. This is what I call “the light at the end of the tunnel,” a strategy that leverages internal motivation to help people move forward. In the workplace, the light is the lifestyle and career rewards that employees can enjoy once they get through the tunnel, which is the work required to attain their goal.
Employers need to create a light for employees and then shine it throughout the working relationship to remind employees of how far they’ve come and how much closer they are to their goals. An employee’s personal light at the end of the tunnel is what will motivate them to achieve beyond expectations—and overcome any scarring from a disrupted education.
As the pandemic drags on, leaving widely varying educational models across the country in its wake, it’s anyone’s guess how long-term the learning loss is—or how deeply it will scar the next working generation.An employee’s personal light at the end of the tunnel is what will motivate them to achieve beyond expectations. Click To Tweet
Students who can’t catch up, for whatever reason, will suffer long-term academic scarring that will limit their future potential in the workforce. It’s up to employers to recognize the potential for education scarring in their future workforce—and start planning now to proactively address it.