Communication and collaboration, creativity and critical thinking, and digital literacy among many others are just a few of the skills necessary at the global level to operate in the permanently changing international context. Current mainstream education systems have remained unchanged over the last few decades while the demands of job markets have totally shifted. It is estimated that by 2030, around 85 million jobs will remain unfilled globally due to skill shortages resulting in a loss of US$8.5 trillion. The challenge is even more difficult in many developing countries where the IT sector is not as well developed and many children do not have access to quality education. We delved deeper into this subject with the support of several DevelopmentAid educational experts. Check out their insights in the article below.
DevelopmentAid: What are the most important work skills missing in developing countries?
“The answer to this question will vary according to the cultural and historical background of each country. In every case, one must ask – “What needs to change?” I remember the founder of a high-tech company in Russia in the early days of post-Communism telling me, “I have more than enough technical expertise to meet my requirements – but if I want to take my business forward, I need someone who can answer the telephone properly”. Following this, I would mention the necessity of soft skills. These can be taught (examples would be, as above, telephone techniques, interviewing skills, communication skills (listening and speaking), team working, problem-solving). I would then point to administration skills. Where do I go to get the information I need and how do I use it effectively? Administrative landscapes can change rapidly; skills that enable organizations and individuals to react quickly and accurately to current and/or new issues are crucial to economic development. Also very important are IT skills – everyone should have at least some, but it is often difficult to manage ways of transferring these skills at appropriate levels.”
“The first thing to understand is that job creation is a function of investment. It is not based on the number of people you train or the amount of money you spend on skills training. If you spend lots of money training people and there are no jobs – due to a lack of investment – then you have wasted your money/time. You have trained people for unemployment. The second point is that the type of training and the level of skills required (in demand in a certain country) depends on the type of investment and the economic/industrial profile of the country which will vary between different countries. There are no common vocational skills that are missing. Third, in addition to specific vocational skills/skill sets, all workers require basic levels of soft skills – communication, working in teams, problem-solving – in order to perform effectively in the workplace. So, a combination of vocational skills specific to a job role (welder, mechanic, dressmaker, etc) and a set of soft skills are important, all of which have to be tailored/customised to the needs of the specific workplace. There is no one size fits all solution. The national skills profile in Kazakhstan might be very different to the one in Rwanda, for example.”
“When hiring people, we usually expect something more than the functional skills written in resumes. Some hiring managers call this “commercial acumen” in their acquisition of JDs. This extra capacity is considered to include insight, good forecasting skills, risk awareness, innovation, communication, customer orientation, and so on. While undervalued compared to hard skills, they do seem to be in fact critical to sustainable economic growth.”
“The emergence of the digital economy has made digital transformation an essential part of our future, and possessing digital skills is crucial for the younger generation to secure employment opportunities and develop the necessary life and career skills. The importance of digital technology in the current job market cannot be overstated, as it is now an essential requirement for many industries. Having digital skills gives individuals a competitive edge in the rapidly evolving world and job market.”
“In my opinion, the lack of adequate ways to shape human capital into an innate talent, skills, knowledge and experience to achieve improvement in creative workforce skills, employability, competences and capabilities are valued aspects that are missing in developing countries.”
“According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report in 2020, the top 10 job skills needed nowadays and in the future are all soft skills (critical thinking, problem-solving, self-management, creativity, leadership, etc.), and 50% of all employees will need to be reskilled by 2025 as the adoption of technology increases (remote work, ICT skills, etc.). When we observe the job market in developing countries, there is a gap of soft skills because those job skills are not sufficiently considered at home, school, and university.”
DevelopmentAid: What are the consequences of the skills gap on the socio-economic development of a country?
“Poverty, high unemployment, low GDP, young people alienated from the world of work, vulnerable individuals and groups left behind, a lack of incentive to become self-employed or start a small business, competitiveness undermined, the erosion of national autonomy and the ability to take decisions in the best interests of the whole population.”
“The gap can vary. In a country with high levels of investment (more jobs available, increasing demand) but a low skills base, businesses that require skilled workers will import these from abroad. In this case, the economic growth might be impressive but the jobs are going to foreign workers who will repatriate their income to their home country. High levels of unemployment will persist alongside the high level of economic growth. The local population does not have a share in the benefits of the country’s growth which will lead to an increasing wealth gap within society and resulting social tensions/unrest. In a country that has low levels of investment (with corresponding less demand for jobs) yet a substantial skills base due to large investments in skills training, the skilled workers will usually opt to migrate/go overseas to find work in high-growth countries and will usually repatriate their funds to their families and/or remain permanently overseas leading to a skills drain in the home country. In this case, high levels of unemployment (in the home country) are associated with low economic growth/low investment resulting in a sustained lack of development because the skilled workforce has left. Both scenarios are associated with higher unemployment levels.”
“This weakness of the education systems in developing countries generates more and more unemployment. In the West African context for example, university graduates are more vulnerable to unemployment than other graduates for these main reasons: their technical skills are not sufficiently oriented to meet the practical demand, they are not oriented to problem-solving.”
“The skills gap negatively impacts developing countries, leading to reduced productivity, reduced economic growth, increased unemployment rates, and a rise in demand for foreign workers.”
“The consequences of a gap in the right skills on socio-economic development has led to the existence of extreme poverty in developing countries, youth unemployment challenges and lack of new ways to accomplish valued economic development goals.”
DevelopmentAid: What solutions should be implemented to bridge the skills gap, especially in developing countries?
“Upgrade employment services, both public and private, so that employers can readily and effectively identify trends in skill requirements and the individuals who might benefit from upskilling/reskilling. Provide short, practical courses, delivered locally, on soft skills, administrative skills and self-employment/small business start-up, ideally through the employment services and/or existing educational institutions; ideally also involve the training/retraining of teachers and instructors. Provide, where infrastructure and resources allow, short, practical courses on basic IT. Stop assuming that an academic qualification is intended to provide lifelong employment in the sector in which the qualification has been obtained. Start understanding that skills must be transferable and that competencies are universal.”
“The first solution is to create employment through increased investment which involves (i) the government creating the conditions to incentivise new investment from the private sector as well as (ii) investing in public infrastructure and (iii) motivating the private sector to invest in skills training. Investment and training must go tohether. Spending lots of money on training will not solve the problem. Secondly, the type of investment in training should be closely aligned to the type of industry. In other words, the training must be demand-led. Not supply-driven. This has to be carefully planned and implemented, industry by industry, sector by sector, region by region based on reliable labor market information, collected from employers/business associations and government planning ministries and updated regularly as conditions can easily change. If the people responsible for planning and implementing skills training – especially those in donor-funded development projects – do not base their training plans on good reliable labor market data, then they are wasting their time and the donor’s money. They are simply spending their money and time training people for unemployment.”
“I think the best solutions to be implemented in closing the skills gap in developing countries should include firstly, bringing about inspiration through the uptake of the Cultural and Creative Industries (CCI) approach as an option towards sustainable creative economy development. Secondly, due to sociological and epistemological perspectives, the integration of art-rich education will shape human capital, stimulate the appropriate future skills, enhance the labor market competitive situation, practices, and creative workforce livelihoods. The strategy seeks to equip graduates with the right knowledge and skills in work-based learning competency, cultivating social capital, aesthetic literacy, learning new information and future skills that are focused on enhancing employability. Eventually, this approach will place the creative works paradigm at the heart of sustainable development policies as a social phenomenon in the twenty-first century.”
“While there are no explicit methodologies for a solution, some programs could be considered effective: 1) more vocational education at the secondary level, through which the younger generation gain fundamental knowledge about production and commerce. The functional subject matter needs to be innovation prone – meaning it should not be too much specific to the current prevailing technology; 2) more employee learning and development on the soft skills side, i.e., motivation, problem-solving, creativity, etc., by multinational corporations in developing countries, financed with a 2-step subsidy utilising grants from the country-of-origin of the multinationals.”
“To bridge this gap, it is essential to design a demand-driven curriculum that aligns with labor market needs, invest in education and TVET, establish private sector partnerships, promote lifelong learning, and empower women economically. The younger generation must embrace digital skills to succeed in the future job market.”
“With the aim of reducing this gap of job skills, the most recommended solutions are: (i) adapting the curricula to the needs of the job market, (ii) improving soft skills teaching at primary and secondary schools and university through the integration of entrepreneurship and leadership courses, in the learning by doing approach.”
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