Reskilling future workers: who’s responsible?
Rapid technological change, with its impact on jobs, requires a constantly renewed workforce through retraining. From switchboard operator to film projectionist, three industrial revolutions down and we’ve already seen many jobs wiped from the face of the Earth. More than half the global labour force will need to start reskilling and reinventing how they earn a living in the next five years, according to the World Economic Forum. Millions of roles will be lost, equally many more will be created.
So, who’s responsible for the skills reboot? Government, individuals, industry and businesses all must play a part in a successful transition into new, yet to be developed, jobs. Our workplace ecosystem will also need to pull together to make employment function properly in the rapidly digitalised global economy.
Here’s a look at who’s accountable.
WORKERS: are employees responsible for reskilling themselves?
Individuals must acknowledge the inevitable changes that are happening. In the 21st century, the responsibility is shifting to workers, more than any other group. Personal employability will be a key driver in the future.
Employment in the age of rapid automation relies heavily on continual skills development, especially as more traditional roles become augmented by new tech.
It will be less about what people already know and more about their capacity to learn, be agile and evolve, redefining their roles in the process. Jobs will be defined by what value workers offer up and produce for a company, rather than job titles and backsides on seats.
EMPLOYERS: invest in reskilling initiatives or risk losing talent
Here is a dire warning for business: if you don’t invest in the right environment for lifelong learning and upskilling, employees will go elsewhere. With a bottleneck in the talent pipeline, attracting and retaining the best people will be crucial.
It doesn’t help that each new deployment of tech, each shift in business down the digitised pathway, creates a new requirement for retraining. Businesses will need greater foresight and to invest heavily, realising that pumping money into training today will drive a return on investment tomorrow. “Employers must prepare themselves for changes in the world of work by putting learning and development opportunities right at the heart of their organisation,” says the CIPD’s Ms Crowley.
GOVERNMENT: reskilling projects can future-proof the workforce
Those in power have a vital role to play in the coming years. Governments can set the tone for upskilling workforces and moving whole economies up the value chain. France, for example, supports learning through a personal training account, which works like healthcare provision. This entitlement allows people to upskill; language and IT courses have been the most popular. This scheme guarantees time away from work to reskill.
Governments beware: it doesn’t help that the fourth industrial revolution, with its focus on emerging technologies, has the potential to peripheralise low-skilled and unskilled work. This is where policies and law-making can really make a difference.
Certainly, public funding will be crucial. Reskilling and upskilling needs sizeable investment from government, including tax breaks, co-financing with private organisations, grants and incentives, as well as a functioning system of skills recognition in the digitalised era.
INDUSTRY: sector-specific skills guidance will be essential in the future
Industry bodies, along with education establishments, also must step up to the mark when it comes to skilling the next generation of workers. In each sector of the economy and in academia, establishments and organisations should be adjusting how they teach the future workforce, so they offer up skills that are relevant to the digitalised era. The education system needs to be fit for purpose.
This will also involve reorganising systems of study and training, so they are more receptive to learning throughout life and funded accordingly. Front-loading young people with a single lifetime qualification will no longer be effective.
The skills that will be most in demand in the future will also be some of the hardest to train: resilience, resourcefulness and flexibility. In addition, having a solid understanding of how to better manage the encroaching demands of our online existence with skills such as distraction and tech management, relationship management, opportunity management, and just staying relevant.
There’s a lot of work to be done.
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