Skills development to shape future workforce | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 05, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:37 AM, March 05, 2019

Skills development to shape future workforce

Large organisations in the world today are working to bridge the gaps in their capabilities. These organisations acknowledge that there is a shortage of skilled talent to clean, integrate, and extract value from advanced technologies and move forward. While the gap between the information need and information available to make business decisions remains very high, unavailability of the right talent and skills is making it difficult to bridge this gap.

According to PwC's 22nd Global CEO Survey, the skills gap, in particular, is a pain point for the CEOs of many organisations. The skills gap impedes innovation and increases the people cost. CEOs also affirmed that the unavailability of key skills affects their growth prospects. Moreover, the highest impact noted by 55 percent of respondents is the 'inability to innovate effectively', followed closely by 'higher than expected people costs'.

The National Skills Development Authority of Bangladesh has been working as the apex body to formulate policy at the national level and to execute programmes to achieve its vision. Its policy outlines the objective, scope of work, and evaluation and monitoring methods.  Successful implementation of a skills development policy would help the workforce of Bangladesh to get ready for jobs of the future.

At the same time, the world and society around us are changing rapidly due to urbanisation, climate change and global shift of economic power. Demographic changes are also creating new imbalances in workforce availability vis-à-vis requirements. Moreover, technological advancements are disrupting all forms of traditional employment opportunities and creating new employment opportunities.

Bangladesh has been growing fast over the last couple of years, and it is expected to continue this economic growth journey in the coming decades. One of the prime factors to make this growth sustainable will be the availability of a workforce with the right skills. Since technology is likely to play an important role in creating new jobs in the future, it is imperative to focus on technology-led skills development of the workforce.

For example, mobile app based ride-hailing services are quite new to Dhaka. The service relies on technology to connect a rider with the available drivers efficiently, thereby creating a mutually beneficial service. Since its introduction, it has been disrupting the traditional modes of public transportation within the city. At the same time, this service is also disrupting the job market by creating a demand for more drivers.

Such drivers need to be comfortable with using mobile apps and delivering their services on the new platform. Such a ride-hailing platform motivated several traditional car drivers working for individuals to leave their jobs and work with these platforms. As a result, individual car owners have been finding it difficult to employ drivers. The compensation for this pool of drivers, albeit small, has also increased to balance the demand-supply gap.

A comprehensive skills development framework should be able to address such situations with technological foresight and agility. In the example provided above, an effective skills development plan should be able to upskill more three-wheeler drivers to four-wheeler drivers while training them to use a smartphone. Such a focused programme would be able to meet the demand with requisite supply, and would be able to improve the average income of drivers. Such a programme should also be agile enough to respond to the market needs, since technological disruptions take just a few months to impact society and jobs.

According to a report published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2018 on the future of jobs, technology is going to displace a wide range of traditionally stable jobs since a good part of those roles would be taken over by the machines. At the same time, the report estimates that more jobs will be created due to the deployment and adoption of new technologies. The report projects that the deployment of advanced technologies in the workplaces will eventually become a net job-creating force. However, these jobs will be based on new roles and human workers will require new sets of skills to become eligible for these jobs.

Business organisations will be competing with each other to employ such human workers given their limited availability. On the one hand, these organisations will try to recruit experienced professionals from peer organisations and the competition. On the other hand, they will be focusing more on retaining the existing talented professionals by offering them better compensation and benefits. Organisations are likely to emphasise more on training and development of the existing staff with new skills. By most measures, successful training and development of existing employees provide better outcomes with respect to employee satisfaction, employee retention and labour cost.

While business organisations will continue to execute their strategy keeping their microeconomic objectives in mind, the market for learning and skills development is also going to expand. Organisations operating in this category, such as privately owned training providers, will see a rise in the demand for their services. These organisations should beef up their capacity to deliver services in this expanded market.

The role of policymakers and public institutions will be most important in such a scenario. Policymakers need to focus on monitoring and measuring progress more frequently to ensure that citizens receive maximum benefits through the rising employment rate. The monitoring and measurement of progress should be aligned with the job aspirations of the people of Bangladesh.

About half the population of Bangladesh is below 26 years of age. Such a young group of people will be able to acquire technology skills faster provided they get opportunities for skills development. The right focus and execution at the macroeconomic level will ensure that citizens get the benefits of skills development. At the same time, talent management initiatives by private businesses will make their workforce globally competitive and relevant for future jobs.

 

The writer is a partner at PwC. The views expressed here are personal.

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