Latin America is the region with the largest skills gap. One of the main drivers behind this is the unequal access to good academic opportunities. In Mexico, the vast majority of Mexicans don’t have a post-secondary degree, which includes college degrees and technical schools, among other continuing education programs.
Less than 20 percent of Mexicans between the ages 25 and 64 have completed post-secondary education. Additionally, the enrollment rate of 20-24 year olds in Mexico is one of the lowest among OECD and partner countries. And the story is very similar across most Latin American countries.
The main obstacles Latin Americans, and more predominantly, working adults, face to obtain their post-secondary or college degree are high program costs and low flexibility. Without question, COVID accelerated the online learning trend, making education much more affordable and much more accessible.
Although there are still boundless opportunities to improve content delivery and formats in digital learning, now more than ever, we have seen universities and educational institutions invest in better technology and tools to reach students at home, on the road, in remote areas, or with complex working schedules. For example, some programs now offer mobile learning and even help you get your high-school degree through videos sent via WhatsApp.
The pandemic has also led to much higher internet use. According to the Asociación de Internet, in 2020 in Mexico, 72 percent of the population were internet users, up from 57 percent in 2015. Of the world’s largest countries by population, Mexico lags only the US, Brazil, and Russia in terms of internet access.
Online education is booming faster than ever, yet the risk of the skills gap increasing in Latin America is greater than ever. A recent study by McKinsey on the future of work, claims that one in 16 jobs will need to find a different occupation by 2030. What’s even more alarming is that low-wage workers will continue to be impacted most.
On the other hand, companies are struggling to attract and retain the talent they need to grow. According to a ManpowerGroup survey in 2020, 74 percent of Mexican companies said they had difficulty filling vacancies, up from 40 percent in 2016. Additionally, throughout the world and now in Latin America as well, we hear more and more about the ongoing “Great Resignation.”
Companies can take advantage of the increasing number of high-quality and low-cost online education programs and use education as a tool for greater employee retention and productivity. If on average, an employee usually stays at a company for two to four months, by helping them pay for their high school or college degree, employees can instead stay at a company for two to four years. Not only will offering education as a benefit attract greater talent, but it will further strengthen a company’s internal talent pool. All of these factors demonstrate a positive ROI in employee education.
But ultimately, by investing more in education, we reduce the region’s skills gap and prepare our workforce for the future.