Davos Agenda

5 ways we can develop the digital skills our economy needs

In the United States, one third of workers lack the digital skills needed to succeed in today's economy

In the United States, one third of workers lack the digital skills needed to succeed in today's economy. Image: Jopwell for Pexels

Stephanie Trautman
Chief Growth Officer, Wipro
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Davos Agenda

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • There is a global digital skills shortage that could mean 85 million jobs are unfilled by 2030.
  • Every business in every sector needs to have a long-term strategy for developing digital skills.
  • This means focusing on diverse skills, offering training on different channels, and customizing the approach to suit different sectors.

In the United States, one third of workers lack the digital skills needed to succeed in today's economy. While the digital skills shortage is slightly less acute in parts of Europe, the distribution of skills is hugely uneven across countries. Meanwhile in the Asia-Pacific region, there will be a five-fold increase the business need for digital skills by 2025.

By 2030, up to 85 million jobs will go unfilled globally, generating an $8.5 trillion gap between possible and realized annual revenues. To put it another way, technical limitations are no longer the main impediment to realizing the impact of many emergent, game-changing technologies. Rather, it is the constrained ability to grow the supply of skilled talent to meet the demands for these technologies.

Ways to advance digital skills

Developing talent in an era of hyper innovation is complex and ever changing. The good news is that governments, companies, and organizations have begun to put into motion the array of options that are available for growing and developing the digital talent that the world needs. This is not just about educating more engineers, coders and developers; in an era where every business is a technology business and every single job function is impacted by technology, we need to take a much more holistic, big picture approach.

Here are some steps we can take now:

1. Make learning and development a central part of long-term planning and strategy

The rise of the digital workplace and an era of rapid innovation mean existing skills are becoming obsolete faster than ever, making upskilling and reskilling of the workforce an imperative for every business. Learning and development programs must become part of businesses’ investment strategy and designed with a view to long-term strategic goals, anticipating the skills that will be critical to organizational success in 3–10 years. Ultimately, those organizations that can create strong digital talent growth engines will be the ones that realize new competitive advantages and long-term sustainable growth.

2. Do not overlook the importance of soft skills

In a world where work is done anytime and anywhere (and predominantly over digital channels), soft skills and neurodiversity are increasingly relevant. Empathy, emotional intelligence, and the ability to connect with diverse colleagues across various parts of the world are just as important to success as technical skills. Organizations expect teams to collaborate, co-create and co-design to build the complex solutions needed in a fast-changing world. Organizations of all sizes would benefit from taking a broader view of upskilling and rounding out technical training with programs that focus on leadership, business management, and cross-cultural and cross-functional competencies.

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3. Offer learning across different channels

Disparate hybrid and remote workforces require us to meet them on their preferred channels. An agile approach that delivers training via a combination of synchronous and asynchronous channels will help drive deeper engagement, better collaboration, and real-time feedback.

4. Customize your approach for different functions and sectors

New technologies, including automation, AI (Artificial Intelligence), and ML (Machine Learning), are reshaping work. For finance functions, AI is helping improve and streamline performance management, to analyse past data and make predictions about the future, allowing for better risk management. In marketing, access to unprecedented levels of customer data are creating new opportunities. Customized technology training curriculums are essential in helping build professionals' analytical and technical skills.

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5. Help raise the next generation of talent

We need more coordinated action and more systematic public-private partnerships when it comes to training and education. At Wipro, we have a long history of working in our communities to improve education programs, helping partners and local communities to build foundational literacy, numeracy, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. We know there is much more to be done across the globe to help build the infrastructure needed to advance digital skills evenly.

In many parts of the world, the pandemic reversed the progress made in education. The United States recorded the largest ever declines in math and reading scores among 9-year-olds in 2022. Lower levels of learning across the globe have a real impact on our collective future; by 2040, the economic impact of pandemic-related learning delays could lead to annual losses of $1.6 trillion worldwide. The need for us to take collective action on education and skills training could not be starker.

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Davos AgendaEducationJobs and Skills
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