Talent is Everywhere

Are we willing to do what it takes to spread opportunity around the world?

GUEST COLUMN | by Jeremy Johnson

CREDIT AndelaIt’s a widely acknowledged fact today that talent is evenly disbursed around the planet, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or background.

What isn’t as equally distributed, however, is opportunity.

In the US, policy, economic, education and business leaders have spent years discussing and debating the skills gap – the distance between what skills are needed to get a good job and what young people are learning in schools. They’ve focused on it for good reason – it’s a real problem for future workers, businesses and the country.

If we really want the best products, best communities and governments, we need more talent, not less.

The talent gap – the gap between global human capital and opportunity – is not only wider but more costly. Even if we can set aside the moral cost of watching talent unfulfilled, the economic toll of the talent gap is severe.

Without finding, nurturing and deploying the best talent, communities, businesses and economies make do with less. We all get good enough instead of great. And good enough costs more in training, time and lack of innovation and efficiency. And not just in business.

But here’s the good news.

Technology is actually helping close the talent gap.

In the past decade, businesses, governments and educational institutions have had the cost of delivering intellectual products cut to near zero. Or, at worst, a fraction of what they were.

Colleges can now teach writing or philosophy or accounting anywhere with a high speed Internet connection. Governments can bring civil engineers and agriculture experts anywhere, virtually. And instead of limiting their talent searches to their local school pipelines and commuter communities, businesses can recruit, train and employ new workers anywhere.

That’s not an abstract theory; it’s happening today.

Right now, my company is helping tech companies find and hire the best tech talent in the world. Coursera, the big online education company, is teaching basic medical care for remote communities around the world. The obvious impact is that, in cases such as these, individuals, families and whole communities are being uplifted through employment, medical care and a host of other services now available remotely.

But there are bigger implications for these efforts than the one-at-a-time benefit.

There is no doubt that some of those who learn computer skills through our company will start their own companies or usher in the next big thing in tech. Someone who learns basic medical care online will become a doctor, or medical researcher or lead a public health organization. All of this would have been impossible without the initial light of opportunity.

That’s why it’s so important that we push conversations and actions that spread opportunity around the world. Policy and business leaders need to attend events like National Education Week, a prestigious education leadership conference in Washington, D.C., which will host a panel on what can be done to connect and cultivate talent.

But it’s just a start of the work that needs to be done around the globe. If we really want the best products, best communities and governments, we need more talent, not less. Getting it requires narrowing the global talent gap by expanding opportunity to meet ability – wherever it is. When we do, we all benefit – wherever we are.

Jeremy Johnson is CEO and cofounder of Andela, a global talent accelerator that produces developers and connects them with top employers. He is also the co-founder and former chief strategy officer of 2U, which partners with leading colleges and universities to deliver online degree programs so students everywhere can reach their full potential.

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