The Forage Talent Resource Center

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What is preskilling?

What is preskilling? 

The world’s largest and most innovative employers have found the secret sauce to elevating their talent strategy. It all comes down to preskilling. 

It’s time to reassess the hire-then-train model

The hire-then-train model needs an overhaul. 

Everywhere you turn, there’s a conversation about the growing global skills gap. The talent space is abuzz with all things skilling, upskilling, and reskilling - and early talent themselves are not blind to this. Forage’s Voice of the Student study found: 

  • 98% students believe they could benefit from more practical training
  • Only 14% believe college provides the skills needed for workplace success
  • Only 59% feel ready for the world of work.

But the skills gap is a symptom of a bigger issue. 

To only focus on the growing global skills is like scraping the top dusting of a Titanic-sized iceberg in the North Atlantic. There is a far bigger issue at play, and it is forcing us as an early talent community to reconsider the way we currently do things.

So, let’s break this down. 

It’s a career chasm, not a career pathway.

The pathway to employment starts with the theoretical foundations provided by higher education institutions, and ends with the practical world of work. But, if we’re being honest, it’s not really a pathway is it? It’s more a leap of faith through a chasm - all with the hope that:

  1. You can make all the way across to actually landing in a role (and not end up in a freefall of hundreds of one-click job applications a day)
  2. You’ve landed in the right workplace
  3. You can actually do the work.

The only conduit along this chasm is the educator (and their career center). But, as our Great Disconnect research found, this reliance on educators as the solution to this gap between the world of theoretical study and the workplace is flawed. It’s resulting in students and employers speaking entirely different languages when it comes to what really matters when trying to successfully pursue a career at a particular company. And the educators themselves are tired of being the middleman and want greater engagement between the two. 

It’s leaving:

It’s not equitable or effective

If we go a bit deeper, it’s not hard to see that the current hire-then-train model is inequitable and inefficient. A student’s first foray into gaining technical, workplace-relevant skills are through internships. But internships in their current form are not scalable - and are limited to a finite group of individuals that meet particular hiring criteria such as having a certain GPA or attending a particular university. Hiring criteria like these are unfortunately more an indicator of access than actual ability or intent to perform in the role. Colleges still rely on alumni networks and when their costs have increased to nearly $30,000USD a year (with some students needing to work over 20 hours a week to cover their expenses) - that leaves a lot of early talent opting out entirely.

And for those fortunate enough to land an internship, that first experience of the workplace also becomes the first point of attrition. NACE’s 2021 Student Survey Report found that only 57.4% of interns actually wanted to continue working with an employer once they finished their internship.

When you think about how much work talent teams put into these programs - this is gut-wrenching. All that time and resources invested to engage, nurture, and skill a finite pool of interns have gone off elsewhere.  

The reality is that candidates and employers are unable to assess their ‘match’ until the skills and career awareness gaps are closed - and this is currently occurring after the hire is made. 

This doesn’t feel right, does it?

What happens if we flipped the script - and trained first, then hired?

Imagine a world where employers could train early talent on the skills needed to be a success in their specific workplace, before they even engaged with the recruiting process. Or even better, a world where early talent could hit the ground running from day one on the job. 

This is possible through adopting the train-then-hire model, something Forage calls “preskilling”. 

What is preskilling?

['pɹɪskɪl] verb
the process of gaining workplace-specific skills for future employment

Preskilling sits at the intersection between the workplace, skill-building, and career exploration. It bridges capability and awareness gaps by facilitating skill-building experiences relevant to the work an employer does - often before reaching the job application stage. 

The reasoning is clear: each and every workplace is different. Consulting at BCG is different to consulting at PwC. Software engineering at Walmart is different to software engineering at JPMorgan Chase. But in order to truly understand those differences - the differences in how the work is done, how the teams operate, and the skills needed to succeed - they must be experienced. And there is no entity or institution better placed than the employer themselves to provide these experiences. 

How does preskilling work?

Through virtual job simulations, employers around the world can bring their workplaces to life - and preskill at scale. Forage’s simulated day-in-the-life experiences provide a virtual, always-on and open-access framework to preskill in a way that bridges the chasm between not just the education to workforce pathway, but students and employers too. 

Through preskilling, employers benefit from a greater and more refined supply of talent that not only know what they do, how they do it, and what qualities they need to be a success - but they also have the skills necessary to hit the ground running from day one. Preskilled applicants are also more committed for the long haul, having their preconceptions dismantled and empowered to make educated and specific decisions to apply. 

And while preskilling is being embraced by the world’s largest employers like Walmart, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Cognizant, SAP, Infosys, BCG, Electronic Arts, McKesson and many more - it is also incredibly impactful for early talent. Not only do they gain access to skilling opportunities otherwise unattainable, they also feel more confident to apply.

  • 99% increase in confidence
  • 99% increase in skills
  • 66% changed their mind about a particular company or career path.

If you’d like to learn more about how Forage can help your company attract the best talent and increase successful new hires, click here to speak to one of our talent strategists. 

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