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As technological forces are disrupting multiple industries and reshaping the workplace, “lifelong learning” has become the new motto to cope with the pace of change. This is true not only for individuals, as a way to maintain and evolve their skillset post-education and throughout their careers, but also for companies, for which it has become “an economic imperative” to be competitive in the digital age.

What can corporations do today to bridge the skills gap and develop the workforce they need? At General Assembly (GA), a global education company teaching today’s most in-demand skills, we believe that innovating the way employers approach their current and future talent is critical for success. Here are three suggestions:

1. Bring data to the conversation

As new skills emerge on the job market, it is often challenging for employers to reliably distinguish the great from the not-so-good. In a recent study, cited by Prof Nick Wright at a Nesta event on the future of data skills, the availability of key skills is a threat to 73% of the CEOs surveyed. Like a CFA for finance or a GMAT for business schools, there is a need to validate those digital skills, through a standard that the industry can rely on.

Today, GA is building assessments in Digital Marketing, Data Science, Data Analysis, Front End and Back End Development, in partnership with industry leaders like L’Oreal, Paypal, Google, Booz Allen Hamilton, and many more. These assessments aim to benchmark talent and identify skills gaps in organisations, to inform training and hiring decisions with data. For instance, as part of their marketing transformation to drive more sales online by 2020, L’Oreal has partnered with GA to develop the Digital Marketing Level 1 assessment, which is used globally by the company in their recruiting process for digital marketers.

2. Build a talent pipeline earlier

Policymakers and businesses need to join forces to build the data talent pipeline sooner than at the university age. To build a stronger and diverse workforce in digital roles, solutions like reinforcing STEM in schools’ curricula, informing students sooner about career opportunities in tech, and developing new apprenticeships are some of the common ideas shared today.

In the UK, companies paying the apprenticeship levy can benefit from recruiting apprentices and fund their training through the levy. According to WhiteHat, an innovative apprenticeship provider, 89% of employers say apprentices make their businesses more productive, and 90% of apprentices stay in employment after their apprenticeships.

3. Radically reskill current workforces

Because the current education system is not able to adapt fast enough to technological changes, there is a shortage of qualified talent on the market, and companies have a key role to play in reskilling their legacy workers towards roles that are strategic for them. Considering the average amount to recruit developers or data scientists ($20-$30K per role) and the average annual L&D budget per individual ($1K-$2K), GA sees this as an opportunity to challenge companies to change their approach to talent acquisition and re-invest in their people. For example, a large consulting firm in the US is partnering with GA to retrain 5,000 employees into data analyst and data scientist roles over the next three years. The company is making this strategic people investment to win more RFPs, bill more to clients and attract more talent.

Jonathan Pinet works in the enterprise team at General Assembly in London, responsible for building relationships with large organisations looking to retrain their talent for the digital age. GA is a pioneer in education and career transformation, specialising in today’s most in-demand skills. GA operates 25 physical campuses around the world as well as a suite of online learning experiences, and serves over 250 corporate clients, as well as an alumni community in the tens of thousands.