• COVID-19 drove millions to work and learn remotely from home, accelerating the need for digital skills and online learning tools.
  • The pandemic creates an opportunity to reimagine education and workforce training.
  • World Economic Forum initiatives like the Reskilling Revolution platform and Education 4.0 are tackling these challenges.

“More than 1 billion jobs, almost one-third of all jobs worldwide, are likely to be transformed by technology in the next decade,” wrote Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director of the World Economic Forum, with the launch of the Reskilling Revolution platform in Davos in January 2020. With the launch, 415 private-sector companies and governments around the world committed to career-enhancement initiatives to reskill 1 billion people by 2030, to ensure they can keep up with the changes brought by the tech revolution and transition to a green economy.

Within weeks, the same companies and governments were grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on workers and students around the world.

While the immediate response was rightly focused on public health, it quickly became evident that skills and education would play an important role in the economic rebound.

The sudden shift to remote work, which is expected to continue, requires digital competency. But even in higher-income economies, 62% of the population have basic digital skills like sending emails, while just 44% have standard skills like creating electronic presentations, according to a recent Forum report.

Which of these is most important to close a potential skills gap in your organization?
CEOs say reskilling and upskilling are needed to close the skills gap
Image: PwC

Meanwhile, 90% of students worldwide were affected by school closures, which the World Bank said could lead to “a loss of $10 trillion dollars in earnings over time for this generation of students, and countries will be driven off-track to achieving their Learning Poverty goals.”

COVID-19's staggering impact on global education
COVID-19's staggering impact on global education
Image: Statista/UNESCO

“The COVID-19 downturn gives us ample reason to act at scale, and act now,” wrote Infosys Ltd’s Ravi Kumar S. and Ernst & Young’s Steve George. “While the outbreak has been unsparing in its impact, we’ve seen a correlation between jobless rates and education level.”

Skills and education are critically important to getting us out of the pandemic – and they’ll be even more important when we get through to the other side.

How to reset education, skills and life-long learning

Even before the pandemic, training for the jobs of the future was urgently needed.

These are some of the fastest-growing professions of the future. We need skills to match.
Image: World Economic Forum

With mass unemployment and uncertainty, reskilling becomes even more important to protect workers and ensure the resilience of the economy.

And, it’s worth noting, many of the clusters where we can expect to see future job growth – such as caring, engineering and cloud computing, and content – have particular relevance to the post-COVID world, in which healthcare workers are more essential than ever and in which millions are working, learning and socializing online.

To assist the private sector with commitments to reskilling, the public sector “needs to provide stronger support for reskilling and upskilling for at-risk or displaced workers,” finds the Forum's Future of Jobs Report 2020.

“The public sector can step in by creating incentives for investments in the markets and jobs of tomorrow; providing stronger safety nets for displaced workers in the midst of job transitions; and to decisively tackle long-delayed improvements to education and training systems,” the report continues.

Equally import as training adults is educating children. The quick pivot to remote learning has led to an “opportunity to revolutionize online learning and skills development for every child in the world, no matter where they live.”

And what does this mean for life-long learning? As Guille Miranda, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Vice President at IBM, explained, “Just as the pandemic accelerated the adoption of telecommuting, it has also made some older students more comfortable with the idea of digital collaboration. Skills learned during the pandemic to navigate this new terrain will serve these teens well as they enter the workforce in the years ahead.”

What is the World Economic Forum doing to improve digital intelligence in children?

The latest figures show that 56% of 8-12-year-olds across 29 countries are involved in at least one of the world's major cyber-risks: cyberbullying, video-game addiction, online sexual behaviour or meeting with strangers encountered on the web.

Using the Forum's platform to accelerate its work globally, #DQEveryChild, an initiative to increase the digital intelligence quotient (DQ) of children aged 8-12, has reduced cyber-risk exposure by 15%.

In March 2019, the DQ Global Standards Report 2019 was launched – the first attempt to define a global standard for digital literacy, skills and readiness across the education and technology sectors.

The 8 Digital Citizenship Skills every child needs
The 8 Digital Citizenship Skills every child needs
Image: DQ Institute

Our System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Media, Information and Entertainment has brought together key stakeholders to ensure better digital intelligence for children worldwide. Find our more about DQ Citizenship in our Impact Story.

What are the World Economic Forum and its partners doing?

  • Launched in January 2020 in partnership with global governments and businesses, the Reskilling Revolution Platform aims to provide better jobs, education and skills to 1 billion people in the next 10 years to ensure they can access the jobs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  • The Closing the Skills Gap Accelerators aim to create global and national public-private collaboration platforms to address skills gaps and to reshape education and training for the future. They focus on lifelong learning and upskilling, proactive redeployment and re-employment, innovative skills funding models and skills anticipation/job market insight. The Forum has also established accelerators in eight countries, with a goal to expand to 17 by the end of 2021.
  • Based on the framework developed in Schools of the Future: Defining New Models of Education for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Education 4.0 aims to better prepare the next generation of talent through primary and secondary education transformation. The initiative will drive impact through new measurement mechanisms for skills, mainstreaming technology-enhanced learning, empowering the education workforce and setting country-level standards and priorities.