An article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “Does Higher Education Still Prepare People for jobs?” challenged the existing systems of universities across the globe and logically sounds most pertinent. This article to answer the titled questions mentions “Today, people often take on leadership positions without much formal management training. Often, the strongest individual contributors are promoted into management, even though they haven’t developed the skills needed to lead a team. But if more schools invested in teaching those skills, organizations would have a larger amount of candidates with leadership potential.” The authors of this interesting article conclude with remarks that university education is not linked with employability due to lack of necessary skills needed for a job. A recent advertisement for the prestigious position of Executive Director, Higher Education Commission of Pakistan very much allude to this notion. This advertisement has been floated twice or more over the past few months; however, the country higher education system is unable to recruit an incumbent for this post. A careful analysis is required, whether suitable candidates with necessary skills for this position in the country or abroad are lacking or the organization has certain internal flaws in the recruitment procedure for this position.

Coming back to the topic of skills in higher education, the Global Human Capital Report 2017, World Economic Forum recognizes top ten countries for skill and education in the order, Norway, Finland, Switzerland, United States, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, Slovenia and Austria. In this article, I will briefly discuss the skills education system of the world No 1, the Norway, the one of my favorite Australia not in this list and neighboring India. A brief of these nations’ efforts related to bridging the gap between skills and academic credentials thus making universities/colleges more relevant follow:

The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research through ‘Skills Norway’ promotes lifelong learning in the era of fast changing knowledge and technological advancement. This initiative has a wide net and incorporates formal, non-formal and informal adult education based on rigorous qualitative and quantitative parameters. The strength of ‘Skills Norway’ can be ascertained from the fact that it also coordinates with the European Agenda for Adult Learning, Electronic Platform Adult Learning Europe (EPALE) and Nordic Network for Adult Learning (Nordisk Nätverk för Vuxnas Lärande, NVL). According to an article published in the OECD Education and Skills Today, the Norwegian universities are preparing student for the challenging labor markets by focusing on domain and discipline specific knowledge. Curricula taught at universities are updated continuously and mainly relevant to the world of work; a strong social network among the universities, public, industry and job places is the major guidance system prompting universities to produce graduates with necessary skills and qualifications requisite for economy and society of the future.

The second one close to my heart and not listed in the top ten is the Australian Government, Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business empowers people with vocational education and training necessary for workplace. Relevant initiative known as “myskills” (https://www.myskills.gov.au/) provides information for aspirants to choose their choice field. The qualifications framework for this setup is limited to Certificate (level 1- IV), diploma, advanced diploma, graduate certificate and graduate diploma. Entry requirements for certificate programs are senior secondary certificate of education, whereas the graduate certificate/diploma including bachelor honors degree fall in level 8 category for which level 7 qualifications (bachelor’s degree) is a prerequisite. Pertinent to mention here is that there are ten levels of qualifications in the Australian education system. Hundreds of different occupations and industries comes under the umbrella of specific prioritized domains including agriculture & food processing; arts & culture; business, education & training; construction & mining; defense industry; design; government, safety & environment; health & community services; manufacturing & engineering; retail, hair & beauty services; science & technology; sports & recreation; tourism & hospitality; transport and utilities. A brief description about every field, contribution in Australian economy and employability statistics is described through Australian Bureau of Statistics and Government Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

Third one is the neighboring system of India. The Indian government’s Skill Development Bureau in the University Grants Commission, Ministry of HRD, Govt of India mandated via three schemes including community colleges, B.Voc degree program and Deen Dayal Upadhyay Centers for Knowledge Acquisition and Upgradation of Skilled Human Abilities and Livelihood (KAUSHAL). Human resources and skill requirements have been ascertained through efforts of the Government of India, Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship and National Skill Development Corporation in consultation with the KPMG Advisory Services Pvt. Ltd. A roadmap for skills universities in India led to emergence of Shri Vishwakarma Skill University – India’s First Government Skills University; Rajasthan ILD Skills University and several others in the pipeline.

In Pakistan skill education is regulated, facilitated and mandated by the Government of Pakistan, National Vocational & Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC). Major functions of this apex federal body are formulation of national policies, strategies and regulations; developing national qualifications framework (NQF); accreditation, certification, skill standards and curricular development, devising a performance evaluation system; TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) besides providing necessary information about job opportunities in each field. This commission on its official web site very clearly identify that “TVET sector is highly fragmented and unstructured in Pakistan and requires reforms at all levels from policy formulation to delivery. The reforms based on the principles of quality, access and relevancy have been identified under National Skill Strategy (NSS) through consultation with all the stakeholders. However, the implementation of NSS is crucial due to lack of relevant expertise and capacity at institutional level.” This scenario reflects that NAVTTC and the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan have a complete disconnect and working on different models than the one I have exemplified above Norwegian, Australian, and Indian. It is hard to predict whether well recognized, accepted and time-tested models will be successful or the unique one we have in Pakistan. Anyway, in an era having industrial revolutions 4.0 in place, artificial intelligence facilitating decision making, higher education, technological and general education systems need to be integrated for the overall economic benefits and facilitating quality of life for every individual.