World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2010

  • Skills Creation: The Future of Employment

    Wednesday 27th January 2010 - 9:00am - 10:15am

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  • Skills Creation: The Future of Employment

    Although unemployment rates continue to rise, there are still 2.6 million jobs unfilled in the US and 4 million in Europe because of a shortage of skilled workers.

    What imbalances in terms of human capital should be addressed for a sustainable post-crisis recovery?

    Key Points

    • Improving the mobility of skilled workers through international standardization of education and training is crucial to addressing the shortage
    • In the absence of international standards, companies are in a position to create programmes to qualify employees and their counterparts around the world
    • Raising high school standards and graduation rates is equally important to addressing the skills gap at all levels in the organization


    The phenomenon of growing unemployment and unfilled jobs is due to a skills mismatch. Companies know exactly what they want and are doing more with less.

    Gone are the days when skills obtained in an education can last throughout a career. Individuals need to be prepared for multiple career changes as well as the creation of entirely new industries. The shelf life of specific skills has also diminished dramatically. Problem solving and “learnability” are the two most relevant skills for the future.

    OECD countries are facing a 3 to 4 million shortage of qualified teachers. At the same time, there has been a decline in Europe in investment in vocational schools. Teacher shortages have come down in developing countries and there are more children in schools, but this is due to the hiring of more unqualified teachers.

    Apprentice programmes are effective in matching skills and workers at all levels in the organization, including jobs like mechanics and drivers. Much of business is about basic day-to-day activities, which requires basic IT, literacy and numeracy training.

    Singapore and China have a record of promoting technical schools. Changing the mindset about vocational schools in other parts of the world requires social acceptance that it is okay to be a plumber, for example. It also requires a change in the mindset of individuals to take it upon themselves to adapt their skills to jobs that do exist.

    A lot of skills are learned on the job, which is a challenge for women when they require leave for maternity and childcare, while their companies promote based on years of service or experience. It was noted that, in many parts of the world, girls are directed into medicine rather than science and engineering.

    Companies can get involved in schools in many ways. Volunteering and one-on-one mentoring programmes provide learning experiences for both employees and students.

    Funding is a huge problem. Expecting individuals to pay in the developing world is not tenable, and the next years will be a challenge for education funding everywhere. Giving the funds to the leaner could help address inefficiencies and put competition in the system.

    There needs to be a better definition of education versus training and where among government, industry, NGOs and individuals responsibility for specific actions lies. Otherwise, progress will not happen. It was suggested to start with simply tracking high school education around the world.

    Session Panellists

    Kris Gopalakrishnan

    , Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Infosys Technologies, India; Global Agenda Council on the Skills Gap

    Jeffrey Joerres

    , Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Manpower Inc., USA

    Wallace King

    , Chief Executive Officer, Leighton Holdings, Australia

    Fred van Leeuwen

    , General Secretary, Education International, Belgium

    Lubna S. Olayan

    , Deputy Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer, Olayan Financing Company, Saudi Arabia; Chair, Arab Business Council, World Economic Forum

    James S. Turley

    , Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ernst & Young, USA

    Moderated by

    J. Frank Brown

    , Dean, INSEAD, France; Global Agenda Council on the Skills Gap


    This summary was prepared by Wayne Ellis. The views expressed are those of certain participants in the discussion and do not necessarily reflect the views of all participants or of the World Economic Forum.

    Copyright 2010 World Economic Forum
    No part of this material may be copied, photocopied or duplicated in any form by any means or redistributed without the prior written consent of the World Economic Forum.

    Wednesday 27 January

    Keywords: education, employment, development

    Recommended reading for: Global Agenda Councils on Skills Gap and Migration, CEOs, Labour Leaders



  • Kris Gopalakrishnan Kris Gopalakrishnan
    President, Infosys, India

    Master's in Physics and Computer Science, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. 1981, co-founded I...

  • Jeffrey Joerres Jeffrey Joerres
    Chairman, ManpowerGroup, USA

    BBA, Marquette Univ. Formerly: with IBM; VP, Sales and Marketing, ARI Network Services. Since 1993, ...

  • Fred van Leeuwen Fred van Leeuwen
    General Secretary, Education International, Belgium

    Formerly: Teacher, Netherlands; late 1970s, with Algemene Bond van Onderwijs Personeel union, respon...

  • Wallace King Wallace King

  • James S. Turley James S. Turley

  • Lubna S. Olayan Lubna S. Olayan
    Deputy Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer, Olayan Group, Saudi Arabia

    Member of the Board: Olayan Group; Saudi Hollandi Bank; Schlumberger; Economic Cities Authority Boar...

Moderated by

  • J. Frank Brown J. Frank Brown
    Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer, General Atlantic, USA

    BSBA, Bucknell University; Advanced Management Programme, Wharton Business School. Formerly, Global ...