This article is part of the Forum Network series on Digitalisation and reflects on discussions at OECD Forum 2019.
As the CEO of AmCham EU I have numerous conversations each week with business leaders and policy makers, and the one topic that has been consistently recurring over the last few years is the future of work and skills. It is at the top of our member companies’ minds. The pace at which technology is changing and impacting the way we work makes the future of the workplace very unpredictable, and one which requires a workforce that is ready to adopt new skills at a level perhaps never witnessed before in our history. While the debate around the future of work has gained prominence over recent years, there is simultaneously an ever-increasing awareness in society that the ongoing technological revolution will bring changes that we all need to try and anticipate.
Many of the jobs of today will change or not exist and this will require companies, institutions and civil society to work together to find shared solutions and to ensure inclusion for all. The advances in technology present endless opportunities but it is important to recognise they will also come with a certain degree of disruption, a reality we must prepare for. New sectors and new jobs will emerge, and in most cases we cannot even begin to articulate what these will be. However, we all need to start sharing the perspective that technology can positively affect growth and job creation. This includes ensuring that citizens are prepared for this type of transition and helping society adapt the skill sets of the current workforce to meet new demands.
Preparation for the future of work is reliant on the fact that current skill sets will become outdated. Significant efforts to upskill the current workforce and equip active employees with new skills portfolios is crucial. This can be done in a number of different ways, such as through e-training and job-to-job transition programmes. This process will require rethinking education systems and teaching methods. We will need to transition from a model of early education to one of lifelong learning. This will provide employees with new learning opportunities and will allow them to gain more control over their skills by choosing specific specialisations, even after they have started working. If we are to truly embrace and harness the benefits of a vastly changing technological workplace dynamic, then a shift to employee lifelong learning will be essential to fulfilling that potential.
Furthermore, this will require educational actors and institutions to rethink current educational paths. Nowadays, companies require new skills and there is a mismatch between businesses' expectations and the skill sets that young people develop throughout primary, secondary and university education. This is even more true for women, who are underrepresented in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and ICT (information and communications technology) sectors. Strengthening vocational training is one solution to the problem, and developing apprenticeships can also be a powerful solution to allow young people to adapt their skills to the demands of employers and in developing soft skills and leadership skills.
This needs to be a shared effort between public and private actors. Industry and governments must work together to solve problems and be committed to initiatives and projects that help the workforce navigate the current transition. We need to increase the sharing of best practices and co-operation to help achieve the most effective results and meet the expectations of employees. Companies, institutions and civil society organisations should continue to share expectations, discuss problems and find solutions towards achieving a future of work that works for all.
In summary, I know that the future of work will come with disruptions, but I also recognise the great opportunities it presents. In order for us to make the most of those opportunities some things must change. We need to increase the sharing of information and collaboration across sectors, actors and between different types of companies and employees. We need to start working together to ensure the future of work benefits our citizens, businesses and economy. This starts by having difficult conversations today, that deliver successful outcomes for the workplace tomorrow.
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New Jobs & Occupations
Future of Education & Skills
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