If there is a global skill race, who’s winning?
Governments all over the world want their countries to have high-value, high-skill economies, and they realise that the first step towards this aim is to have a well-educated workforce. In the UK, an appreciation of the connection between economic success and education has led to widening participation in university, as well as lifelong learning, being politicised as a priority.
But many Commentary from the organisations such as the Teaching and Learning Research Programme shows that this policy prescription may not be enough to avert a significant attack on skilled and professional employment in the UK.
Policy-makers have yet to appreciate the fundamental shifts which are now taking place in the way companies use skilled people. Large firms are increasingly aware that emerging economies, especially but not exclusively India and China, are building up their education systems at a rapid rate. Leading corporations are abandoning the idea that high-end activities such as research and design have to go on in the high-cost economies of Europe, North America or Japan. Instead, they are developing ways in which high-value work can be standardised, as manual work already has been. Once this is achieved, high-skill people in low-cost countries suddenly become an attractive option for multinationals.
This means that we may be entering an era in which many of the young people now investing heavily in their education across the developed world may struggle to attain the comfortable jobs and careers to which they aspire. They risk being bypassed by decisions to send work that would once have come their way naturally to people in Asia and elsewhere, who bring the same skills to employers at much lower prices.
We know that many people would argue that UK employers should provide work for UK people, but with the global competitive markets forcing prices down, UK employers need to remain competitive if they are indeed wanting to sell any of their services.
At least 26 million unemployed people have been looking for work across Europe during the long, hot summer of 2013. They will not be the only ones looking.
Millions of school and university leavers will join them in the search. Millions more are looking for more work than they already have – another part-time job, or a full-time job in place of part-time work.
And millions of others are not registered as unemployed but are also searching for paid work to supplement their income: pensioners in need; partners of someone in work whose wage has fallen; students who are studying full-time but cannot survive without a job on the side; children who are officially too young to work but whose families need the money.
Four key components that contribute to the challenges we all face ahead:
- Multi-Generational Workplace
- Technological Development
13 Questions governments around the world will need to address that will affect you and your children’s children.
In order to help shape the debate over labour and entrepreneurial policy for the twenty-first century we need to get involved in asking these questions throughout our communities, educational institute’s and economists. Questions such as:
- How do we ensure that workers get the skills they need to succeed in the twenty-first century workplace? (Not just the young people but those unemployed now)
- Will employers hire and train workers who initially lack skills?
- What happens to the worker laid off from a manufacturing job at age 55 —does he get training in new technologies or is he stuck in lower-wage jobs like groundskeeper, security guard, and warehouse stock controller?
- How do we make sure that people with disabilities have access to the technologies that facilitate their participation in the workplace?
- How will e-commerce impact employment?
To find out more, order your copy of ‘The new rules of engagement for long term employability’ By Diane Shawe
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