In a new commitment to financial literacy, business services giant PwC is widening its scope to include support for students seeking 21st Century job skills.
The firm’s $320 million pledge over five years, announced today, is the latest broadening of the financial literacy movement, which once referred mainly to teaching kids about things like budgets and debt but now encompasses all things financial, from choosing the right cable package to planning for retirement.
In effect, PwC is saying that while financial literacy is a critical skill it won’t fix the problems of young people who may finish school with a degree but still lack the ability to function efficiently in a modern workplace.
By 2021, 69% of employers expect they will favor prospective hires with knowledge of data science and analytics, according to a report from PwC and the Business Higher Education Forum. Yet only 23% of college and university leaders say their graduates will have such knowledge. Some 79% of CEOs worry that a shortage of key skills could impair their companies’ growth.
“While financial literacy is essential for everyone, tech skills, too, have become a critical life skill that is fundamental to our daily lives and to nearly every workplace,” says Shannon Schuyler, corporate responsibility leader at PwC. “The lack of exposure and inability to develop these skills will inhibit our students’ ability to thrive in the future.”
PwC will provide tools, training and mentoring to students, educators and guidance counselors. The goal is to open more opportunities to learn the skills needed to be a data engineer, data analyst or data scientist. The program will also support tech learning that would help students become more effective in data-driven occupations like marketing, human resources and research.
“Employers will need data-driven, multidisciplinary teams to tackle their biggest problems and grasp their most promising opportunities,” the report states. “But this runs counter to an educational culture where both faculty and students devote little time outside of their own specialties.”
Employers contribute to the knowledge gap, according to the report. Most do not fully understand the broad application of tech skills and are not shaping their staffing strategies to develop and retain people with these skills, the report found.
Already, job openings for people with data skills outnumber those for nurses and truckers combined. By 2020, annual job postings for this skill set will jump to 2.72 million from 2.35 million today, according to the report.
Through its Access Your Potential program, PwC expects to expose 10 million students in underserved communities to programs that will raise their financial capability and tech skills. It also expects to equip 100,000 teachers and guidance counselors with tools to prepare students to make sound financial choices and better understand tech-based careers.
The market for data skills is white hot and will remain that way for the foreseeable future. Yet these skills do not easily lend themselves to on-the-job training. The traditional practice of treating a university degree as a proxy for specific job skills is fast becoming obsolete in a tech-centric economy.
PwC is drawing attention to this 21st Century problem, and in so doing underscoring that young peoples’ long-term financial wellness does not start with how to manage money—but how to earn it in the first place.