Future of Work

Davos 2024: 6 innovative ideas on reskilling, upskilling and building a future-ready workforce

'The Race to Reskill' is a major topic of discussion with a quarter of jobs expected to change in the next five years.

'The Race to Reskill' is a major topic of discussion with a quarter of jobs expected to change in the next five years. Image: World Economic Forum/Faruk Pinjo

Pooja Chhabria
Digital Editor, World Economic Forum
Natalie Marchant
Writer, Forum Agenda
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Future of Work

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • Davos 2024, the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, takes place from 15–19 January in Davos, Switzerland.
  • 'The Race to Reskill' is a major topic of discussion with a quarter of jobs expected to change in the next five years.
  • Here are thoughts from global leaders attending Davos 2024 on innovative approaches to facilitate reskilling, upskilling and job transitions.

Almost a quarter of jobs (23%) are expected to change in the next five years, the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs Report 2023 found, with 69 million new jobs created and 83 million eliminated. There is particular concern about developing the skills for the so-called "jobs of tomorrow", such as those needed for the digital, green and energy transitions.

While a "skills-first" approach potentially holds the power to transform the labour market, other innovative approaches in the 'Race to Reskill' are a major part of the discussions at Davos 2024, the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum currently underway in Switzerland.

Here are 7 such business and policy approaches that can help facilitate reskilling, upskilling and job transitions across sectors:

Have you read?

‘Generative AI to close performance and experience gaps’

Jeff Maggioncalda, Chief Executive Officer, Coursera, Inc

People often say that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. And to a large degree, technology has made that true. Technology has created greater gaps between the haves and the have-nots.

Now as it relates to AI, there's a lot of opportunity; there are some threats. I think there's something that's important, a distinction between more traditional AI and generative AI. With more traditional AI, it was much more about the builders of these systems.

With generative AI, it's a little bit different. It's not just how it works, it's how it's used. Generative AI will be a tool, a thinking tool, and a work and productivity tool, that will be able to change the opportunity set for almost everybody in the world.

And research is coming out that is showing that there is a disparate impact in terms of performance improvement from people who use these generative AI tools.

Notably, at least among knowledge workers, those with less experience have a bigger improvement in their capabilities when they use generative AI tools than those with more experience. So this could close some of the performance and experience gaps.

‘Greater emphasis on skills in higher education’

Michael Sandel, author and Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University

We need to reconsider the role of higher education.

We need to place greater emphasis on skills training. And invest more in vocational and technical training facilities, opportunities, and careers.

But it isn't only a matter of investing more in vocational and technical training. It's also a matter of honour and social recognition, of respecting, of according dignity to those who work in trade, to those who perform valuable contributions to the economy, even though they may not have a university degree.

So it'll require investment in those forms of learning on which most of our fellow citizens depend to prepare for the world of work. But it will also require a kind of re-evaluation of what counts as a valuable contribution to the common good.

‘Equip frontline managers to support employees’

Alexi Robichaux, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, BetterUp Inc.

The world is proliferating new skills and new knowledge every day. That is not just requiring workers to catch up from a skill acquisition standpoint; it's starting – to use a computing analogy – to really stretch the bus or the bandwidth of our ability to compute as human beings.

And a lot of that falls on the frontline manager. How do I support people emotionally? How do I actually help galvanize and foster their development of these new, often technological skills?

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So I think one of the most important things CEOs and SROs, or chief people officers, can do is really say, how are we equipping our frontline managers to be able to enable teams to succeed? Because that is where the rubber meets the road; the culture, the performance is really set at the front lines.

‘Partnerships are vital to the reskilling revolution’

Asheesh Advani, President And Chief Executive Officer, JA Worldwide

One of the nice things about the Reskilling Revolution is that it set a very ambitious target. When you set a target of reaching a billion young people over a decade, it brings stakeholders together, and they start to agree on things in order to move forward towards a target.

The way that at least our organization delivers programmes is through partnering with both governments and businesses, partly because we need access to the school day. So we need partnership with governments to give us access to the school day, whether it's for K-12 or for higher education, having access to student time and learner time is critical.

We partner with businesses because it helps us bring real role models to young people so we can actually impact their mindset, not just their skill set, to get them to realize that certain careers they didn't know were available to them are now open, which starts to put context into why they're learning.

‘Collaboration between public and private sector is key’

Aisha Rimi, Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission

There are 200 million-plus people in Nigeria. So I mean, the potential is that we have 65%, I think, under the age of 35. Not everyone is going to be able to go to university and get a college degree.

So one of the ideas is to focus on vocational training and this comes with revamping the curriculum – working with the Ministry of Education, with private sector to get this national qualification system in place.

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We're working with investors in the country to see how they can support these programmes, because government just does not, with the greatest intention in the world it can't, move as quickly. It's not as nimble as it would like to be.

You have budgetary concerns and all of that, so working with private sector, of course, incentivizing them and working with the education board [is important].

‘Invest in people as you do in technology’

Denis Machuel, Chief Executive Office, Adecco Group AG

One thing to have in mind, particularly with the GenAI revolution, is the equal investment that is required in tech and in people. And usually, when you talk about GenAI, we talk about, you know, there's so many millions, or dozens of millions, to put in tech. Well, you should put the same money, the same amount of money, in the way we are preparing the people.

We've made a study, 2,000 C-suite executives on this GenAI skills gap, only 43% of top leaders are saying that even their top managers are ready and have the skills that are necessary to understand the risk and opportunity of Gen I at the top level of the organization. So you can imagine in this massive endeavour that we all have to do to, to get people ready for that.

And there's always that question of who pays. From a business perspective and private company perspective, people with our accounting standard are counted as cost and not as assets in the balance sheet. So I hope as we progress on sustainability and new accounting standards, particularly on the social piece, that at some point we'll be able to put you know, human assets in the balance sheet and not as cost in the P&L.

The Reskilling Revolution, launched at the Forum’s Annual Meeting in January 2020, aims to provide one billion people with better education, skills and economic opportunity by 2030. Click here to learn more.

The session ‘The Race To Reskill’ was moderated by Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director, World Economic Forum Geneva, with the following participants:

Jeff Maggioncalda, Chief Executive Officer, Coursera Inc.

Denis Machuel, Chief Executive Officer, Adecco Group AG

Claudia Azevedo, Chief Executive Officer, SONAE SGPS SA

Click to watch the full session:

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