The world’s rich countries face a looming challenge in education: Too many of their citizens lack the skills and credentials needed for the jobs of the future. To keep people productively engaged in work in the coming decades, and to ensure that economies maintain robust growth, governments, educators and employers will need to make lasting investments in a new class of students: adults.
The trouble for now is largely demographic. Although a growing share of people between the ages of 18 and 24 is going to college, the total population of young adults is shrinking in the U.S. and Europe. So total college enrollment is largely in decline. Meanwhile, the population of older workers keeps growing. In the U.S., by the middle of the next decade, nearly one-quarter of the workforce will be over 55. And many adults lack the post-high-school education and training that employers increasingly demand.
A majority of new jobs created in the U.S. since 2010 have required workers to have medium to advanced digital skills. Over the next decade, the percentage of jobs worldwide requiring a college degree or higher will continue to increase, according to a McKinsey Global Institute analysis.