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AMNC23: How to close the skills gap to enable future growth

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Peter Brown said those with specialist skills were more likely to have access to upskilling opportunities from their employer.

Peter Brown said those with specialist skills were more likely to have access to upskilling opportunities from their employer. Image: World Economic Forum/Faruk Pinjo

Kate Whiting
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
Pooja Chhabria
Digital Editor, World Economic Forum
This article is part of: Annual Meeting of the New Champions

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  • The World Economic Forum's 14th Annual Meeting of the New Champions is taking place from 27-29 June.
  • Leaders from across the world are gathering in Tianjin, People’s Republic of China, at a crucial time for the global economy.
  • How to close skills gaps to enable the green transition and future growth was the subject of the session: New Skills for Fast-Moving Industries. Here are some of the key quotes.

Tackling the biggest challenges we face today - from the climate crisis to global economic uncertainty - requires innovation. That innovation will require new skills.

With the current pace of technological change, employers estimate that in the next five years, 44% of workers skills will be disrupted, according to the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs Report 2023.

Six in 10 workers will require training before 2027, with analytical and creative thinking, as well as utilizing AI and big data topping the list of priorities for skills training.

Businesses' top 10 skills priorities for 2027
The skills that are increasingly important to businesses. Image: Future of Jobs Report

But a new report from PwC, the Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023, has found only a third (36%) of respondents strongly or moderately agree that the skills needed to succeed in their job will change significantly over the next five years.

So how do businesses upskill workers to ensure they can grow?

This was the focus of a session at the World Economic Forum's 14th Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin, People’s Republic of China.

New Skills for Fast-Moving Industries featured Peter Brown, PwC's Global People and Organization Leader, Paul Chou Chao-Bou, Chairman and President, JA China, Nizar Ben Néji, Tunisia's Minister of Communication Technologies, George Xu, Chief Executive Officer, Airbus China Limited, and Emilija Stojmenova Duh, Slovenia's Minister of Digital Transformation.

Here are some of the key quotes:

'All jobs are IT jobs'

Slovenia lacks IT skills and has one of the greatest needs for this skillset in the European Union, said Emilija Stojmenova Duh.

"There is huge demand, we have a lot of IT companies. But when we speak about digital skills and competencies, we must be aware that not only IT jobs need people with digital skills and competencies, but nowadays, all jobs need digital skills and competencies. It's not only the IT sector, but also the media sector, the health sector, even teachers nowadays need ICT skills and competencies."

Slovenia is looking to school reform, to incorporate digital skills and competencies into formal education, as well as a raft of projects to upskill the workforce.

"Our goal is that by 2030, 80% of our population will have at least basic skills. One of the ways to do this is to increase the percentage of women involved in the ICT sector. We have started close collaboration with private companies."

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'Upskill everyone equally'

PwC's report identified a 'specialization gap' around perceptions of upskilling needs among workers. Half of those whose jobs require specialist training said the skills needed to do their jobs would change significantly, compared to only 15% of those whose jobs don't require specialist training.

Peter Brown said those with specialist skills were more likely to have access to upskilling opportunities from their employer and are "much more aware of the impact of technology disruptions and the importance of human skills".

"We need the whole workforce to be engaged and motivated and empowered to deliver this innovation.

"Those who don't see their job will require new skills in the next five years don't get easy access to upskilling opportunities in their organizations. There is a great danger and unless we respond to that, we will have a whole society that is disadvantaged. We must work together as business leaders, as policymakers, as governments to solve for that."


'It's about attracting and retaining talent'

Tunisia is contending with a brain drain effect, contributing to talent shortages, said Nizar Ben Néji, and there are four key challenges to overcome "in order to have an IT workforce at a national level":

"We need to think about education and reform, how to attract and retain talent, we need well-defined IT jobs and IT career pathways, and we also need to have a framework in order to define IT skills and digital talents at a national level."

'We must embed resilience'

Resilience, flexibility and agility is the fifth most important skill for 2027, according to the business leaders surveyed for the Forum's Future of Jobs Report.

Resilience is not something you are born with - it's something you need to learn, said George Xu.

"Everybody, including myself, at the beginning of COVID, I was optimistic we would quickly recover. One year later, nothing happened. Two years later, it was even worse. At that time, people started to get flustered. There was a lot of frustration. And that's the right time to test and nurture your resilience. All the people who have really passed this test have resilience embedded in their blood."

Children have resilience already, added Paul Chou Chao-Bou. "It's adults that need to recognize and to foster [resilience], in other words, to forge habits."

'Embrace failure and allow mistakes'

The panelists all agreed with the need to enable people to make mistakes, in order to encourage experimentation and innovation.

"If we want people to be creative, then we need to provide them a safe environment where they can experiment and where they can also fail," said Emilija Stojmenova Duh.

Peter Brown added: "If we want to innovate and transform, innovation by its very nature requires valuing making mistakes, stretching boundaries. If workers are in an environment where culturally they feel it is not safe to make small-scale errors or to challenge and debate development, then there is a problem.

"There is a real call to action for leaders to really have a look at the culture and focus on making sure it is inclusive, embracing all ideas, all diversity, not just gender but all forms of diversity so that we can solve those problems."

Watch the full session here.

Related topics:
Forum InstitutionalJobs and the Future of Work
'All jobs are IT jobs''Upskill everyone equally''It's about attracting and retaining talent''We must embed resilience''Embrace failure and allow mistakes'

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