Technology is changing the way we work, including the skills that workers need to succeed. Moreover, the skills and competences workers need will change over the course of their working lives. This begs the question as to whether existing workforces and skilling institutions are fit-for-purpose and will be able to deliver on these changing skills needs.
Policy-makers and social partners agree: the future lies in lifelong learning. Yet, the challenge is how to make this a reality and ensure that institutions, resources, motivation and time are available to enable people to acquire the right skills at the right time?
Lifelong learning and skills development tops the priority lists of all labour market policy-makers around the world. They are extensively addressed in most recent international initiatives, such as the OECD Jobs Strategy and the ILO Future of Work Declaration.
Increased focus is placed on the combination of working and learning, especially for young workers entering the labour market for the first time.
Another key element is to better identify the types of skills that people should anticipate learning. Policy initiatives are focusing on better connecting business to educators, promoting the development of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills, and enhancing ‘soft skills’ which encompass human interaction capabilities and the ability to learn.
Access to skilling throughout one’s career is the best form of income protection one can get. Bridging the skills gap therefore depends on access to training. For this reason, the World Employment Confederation, advocates for the portability of skilling rights, regardless of the type of skills needed. Benefits and rights to training should build up over the course of one’s career, across different jobs, sectors, and forms of work. This requires access to training to be re-defined.
The private employment industry believes that the workplace is the best place for the development of employable skill sets. Easy access to work through vocational training and apprenticeship schemes is therefore crucial, especially for young workers.
Yet, while skilling is an important answer to any labour market challenge, it should never be the only one. Labour market reforms that enable the optimal deployment of diverse forms of work underpin any successful effort to ensure an employable workforce. Without them, skilling efforts will be in vain.