The link between learning and earning used to be quite simple: get as much formal education as you can, as early as you can, and more likely than not, a good career and a comfortable lifestyle would be yours.  Or so we thought.

But it’s not quite so simple nowadays.

Our rapidly emerging digital economy makes for a far more complex, globalized and technologically sophisticated world. We need to keep up with constantly changing, in-demand technical skills, and we also need to be good at critical thinking, communication, creativity and cultural fluency  –  “the Four Cs” according to Michael Moe, co-founder of GSV Asset Management.

The thing is, many leave formal education nowadays with great qualifications but without in-demand technical skills, and without the “Four Cs” necessary to make them genuinely employable in our new and very different world of work.

Moreover, for reasons that are the subject of much debate, employers are not as willing as before to invest in training their workforce (in Britain the average amount of on the job training received by workers almost halved between 1997 and 2012).

Yet new entrants to the workforce are expected to arrive with considerable real life work experience under their belt – a serious predicament for many.

So there is a need nowadays for new pathways into jobs when formal education comes to an end – pathways that develop in-demand technical skills, as well as the Four Cs.  They must also provide real life work experience and links to potential employers.

New pathways are also critically important for mid-career workers.  Many need to develop new skills, fit for purpose in our rapidly digitizing economy, as established skills become obsolete.

The good news is that promising solutions are starting to emerge out there, though many are still at an embryonic stage. 

One of the most highly regarded pioneers in education and careers transformation is General Assembly – see Their programmes develop in-demand technical skills as well as the “Four C’s”.  They also provide a pipeline to potential employers and an impressive global network.

But General Assembly courses can be expensive (up to £8,000 for a full time 10 week course).  So it is good to know that 18 – 25 year old Londoners can benefit from General Assembly’s “Digital Pipeline” courses, funded by the Mayor of London, for FREE – see

The National College for Digital Skills is another pioneering outfit seeking to provide an effective link between learning and earning.  Again, they promise to develop in-demand technical skills, as well as the “Four Cs”, and serve as a pipeline to potential employers.  And as a state funded college, all courses are FREE – see

Our next article in the series Opportunity Knocks will highlight a few more outfits that promise to develop different in-demand technical skills in ways that catapult trainees into employment.

Executive Director,
Future Think,
Penny Carballo-Smith