Head of Unit for Employment and Skills, OECD
A generation ago, our education determined our first job. Many workers went on to stay in the same sector with the same employer until they retired. However, labour markets are changing – and fast.
Structural changes in the economy, as well as global trends including the digital and green transitions, influence the way we work and the types of jobs available. Take automation: the OECD estimates that around 14% of jobs could disappear a cross the OECD in the next 15-20 years, another 32% will significantly change.
The green transition also demands re-skilled and up-skilled workers in many sectors. These include skills for the automotive sector’s transition to electric cars and the retrofitting of buildings in the construction sector. In a world that is increasingly knowledge-based, skills development can no longer be thought of as a finite process.
Underinvestment and imbalance in new skills
OECD evidence also shows that groups standing to get the most from adult learning, participate least in education and training. Only around a third (36%) of workers at high risk of automation participate in adult learning. By contrast, participation rates for adults with a low risk is almost two-thirds (64%). If all workers at high risk of automation trained as much as low-risk workers, an additional 23 million adults would need to participate in training every year.
In a world that is increasingly knowledge-based, skills development can no longer be thought of as a finite process.
Breaking down barriers
Too many adults are not actively seeking training offers or get discouraged. Most say they lack the time for work related training or personal reasons such as childcare and family responsibilities. Digging deeper we have seen that many adults give up because they cannot find training offers that are close by and have a schedule that works. High costs and a lack of employers support also are barriers for many.
Employers too are often discouraged from investing, especially as workers are increasingly mobile and can take the benefits of their training elsewhere. An under-educated workforce can cause risks to companies’ competitiveness and thus to the local economy.
Local partnerships count
The speed and scope of labour market changes mean that we need skills that match tomorrow’s jobs. The Irish Regional Skills Fora is an opportunity for employers. The fora bring together industry associations and representatives, education and training providers and government agencies.
Together they identify current and future skills needs and develop training programmes that address priority skills needs for employers. This tailored approach combined with government subsidies for training ensures the buy-in of local employers to invest in upskilling their staff.