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  • Writer's pictureChristina J. Colclough

Upskilling for Shared Prosperity

Report by World Economic Forum and PWC includes four Calls to Action including the Why Not Lab's "People Plan".

Published January 2021, the report concludes that:

To make large-scale upskilling across global economies and societies a reality, government, business, education, civil society and other leaders will need to work together in a more agile, resilient and inclusive manner. The call to action outlined in this section focuses on how to close the skills gap and prepare people for jobs now and in the future – starting primarily with secondary education. In many countries, this starts with access to basic health and nutrition, early education and connectivity, areas that the UN Sustainable Development Goals seek to address.
For the purposes of this report, closing the skills gap relies on a series of levers that are all underpinned by public-private cooperation: providing lifelong learning and upskilling, proactive redeployment and re-employment, funding and the ability to anticipate what skills are needed in the job market. Actions should be focused on both the supply side – the upskilling of people – and the demand side – the jobs for those workers. The former requires a collaborative ecosystem across government, business and education. The demand side will require a new focus on the types of jobs that people do and the need to make these good jobs safe, fulfilling and inclusive.
Based on the analysis and extensive expert consultations, this report identifies four key areas that demand new approaches to upskilling and urgent action by governments, businesses and other stakeholders:

4 key areas requiring urgent action

  1. All stakeholders: Build a strong and interconnected ecosystem committed to a comprehensive upskilling agenda and give people the opportunity to participate

  2. Government: Adopt an agile approach to driving national upskilling initiatives, working with business, non-profits and the education sector

  3. Business: Anchor upskilling and workforce investment as a core business principle and make time-bound pledges to act

  4. Education providers: Embrace the future of work as a source of reinvention to normalize lifelong learning for all

The Why Not Lab fully supports these identified areas in need of novel approaches and urgent action. We advocate strongly for the People Plan identified in the report as area 3:

What's the 'People Plan'?

The idea here is that companies and public services, should be obliged to invest in the upskilling or reskilling of their staff/workers when investments are made in new, disruptive technologies. As such employers will commit to the career development of workers - be it within or outside of the company/service's boundaries.

Before the disruptive technologies are introduced the company, together with the workers and the unions, should map skills and competency profiles. Further training should be co-determined. To ensure that all workers, regardless of their private responsibilities, have access to the training, it must take place within working time and be regarded as an element of their work duties - not an addition to.

Unions could beneficially support this shift in focus from job security to career security. The career can be within the same line of duty, or be totally different. The Finance Services Union in Denmark, who has adopted this strategy, is supporting their members in cooperation with their employers to retrain into new job roles in the financial sector, or into totally different occupations. Focussing on career security rather than job security is a sustainable path to continuous employment. One that embraces flexibility and change without leaving workers behind.

Competencies - the missing element in the report

Whilst the Why Not Lab is in agreement with many of the report's recommendations, there is also one key omission. Namely that of workers' competencies in addition to skills. You might be appreciated for being the caring one amongst your colleagues. The one who notices when your co-workers are feeling down, or need a little more attention. Or you might be the change-maker. He or she who dares break boundaries and suggest sometimes wild new ways of doing things. Or you are system person - keeping things in working order, spotting anomalies and correcting processes so everyone and everything functions well.

These human competencies are highly important yet seldom appraised. We certainly don't write on our LinkedIn profile that "I am the heart of the organisation". Yet shouldn't we? Human competencies are the least automatable, they are what makes a team function well - or the opposite. They also are key expressions of each individual's personality.

So here's to a greater focus on the role of competencies in the future of skills debates. We must, as workers, managers and colleagues alike, become far more comfortable with and willing to appraise our co-workers for their human competencies. Demos Helsinki in Finland reportedly does this: every year before Christmas each worker is asked to appraise a number of their colleagues for their human competencies. As the company closes over the holiday, every worker receives a Book of Appraisal. Its an amazing idea. And one we all should be inspired by.


Read the report "Upskilling for Shared Prosperity" by World Economic Forum in cooperation with PWC here

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