Skilling is the answer to challenges of future

Special address by Ms. Walter Dagmar, Director, DWT South Asia and India at CII’s National Conference on Skill Development and Livelihood – Skills4Jobs: Driving Convergence.

Statement | New Delhi, India | 10 December 2019

Namaskar and Good Morning!

Distinguished members on the dais

Esteemed participants

A very warm welcome to all of you. It is a pleasure to speak at the CII National Conference on Skill Development & Livelihood 2019. As one of the leading and oldest industry chambers in India, you have a key role in shaping the skill policies and practices, which promote sustainable business and decent work among your members and beyond.

You will see that much of what I have to say will resonate and link with what you have heard so far. We all are aware that skilled employees are at the core of competitive enterprises. It brings enterprises the agility and resilience to effectively respond to market changes. In this context, today’s deliberation on ‘Skill4Jobs: Driving Convergence’ is pertinent, especially at a time when the world of work is rapidly going through transformative change and upskilling becomes essential.

The joint ILO-IOE report “Changing Business and Opportunities for Employer and Business Organizations” published earlier this year, identifies five global trends that are drastically changing business models regardless of size, sector or location: technological innovation, global economic integration, demographic and generational shifts, climate change and sustainability, and a global shortage of skilled labour. Technological innovation is by far the most influential trend and is fundamentally changing the way companies add value to products and services. The report finds that the increased penetration of technology also reinforce the demand for ‘human’ skills such as creativity, problem solving, communication and collaboration. The report also found that for 53% of Indian businesses it has become harder to recruit people with the skills needed.

While there might well be sufficient job creation to compensate for job displacement caused by disruption, the realization of these opportunities will depend on ensuring that the workers can move to the jobs that are in demand with the relevant set of skills.

Thus, the policy challenge is to create demand-side informed skilling programmes, which will support people through transitions and enable them to take advantage of newly generated decent job opportunities.

Future of work and ILO

Leading up to its centenary this year, the ILO established the Global Commission on the Future of Work that consisted of 22 commissioners, two of which came from India. They produced an independent report, ‘Work for a Brighter Future,’ which was launched in January 2019. Based on its recommendations, ILO constituents deliberated and adopted its Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work in June this year, calling for a ‘human-centred approach’ to the future of work. Three recommendations seem to be essential to shape the agenda for today’s discussion on skills and convergence.
  • First is increasing investment in people’s capabilities, skills development and life-long learning;
  • Second, increasing investment in sustainable enterprises and create and enabling environment;
  • Third, increasing investment in the institutions tasked to deliver on this.
It will also mean to adopt a “human-in-command approach,” which actively embraces the technologies rather than being driven by them.

Future of skills

These recommendations will guide us to deal with the skills challenges. Countries need new skills and lifelong learning ecosystems that support the implementation of the ILO’s Human Resource Development Convention, 1975 (No. 142) and the Human Resources Development Recommendation: Education, Training & Lifelong Learning, 2004 (No. 195).

We need an ecosystem that recognizes education, training, and lifelong learning as a fundamental need and should form an integral part of economic, fiscal, social, and labour market policies and programmes that creates decent jobs. It will enable all individuals to have access to skills development, allowing them to benefit from the opportunities of a changing world of work. Let me discuss some of the building blocks of the effective lifelong learning system and how we could achieve them through convergence:
  1. First, skills and lifelong learning policies should be developed with strong linkages to social protection and broader macroeconomic policies such as fiscal and industrial policies. The government policies will be effective when sectoral skills strategies are aligned with economic policies and education and training policies. It needs convergence between the policymakers representing finance, trade and commerce, education and labour and employment ministries, and the social partners representing employers, workers, and civil society. The technical skills need to be complemented with foundation skills, including learning to learn, adaptability, teamwork, innovation, critical thinking, among other. They should be developed through early childhood and basic education.
  2. Second, skills anticipation is also vital. Rapidly evolving skills needs and widening skills mismatch demand sharper labour market analysis. We need further deliberations and enhanced social dialogue on the identified current and future skills needs. National and international collaboration on skills anticipation can play a key role in addressing these challenges. We would need interventions targeting skills imbalances in strategic sectors, for developing digital and core skills and skills for the transition to environmental sustainability.
  3. Third, better utilization of skills is also the key to reduced skills mismatch. Perception towards skills training must be changed. While Technical a nd Vocational Education and Training (TVET), work-based-learning such as apprenticeship programmes are highly regarded as effective modes of skilling globally, Asia ranks much lower in these practices and India even further below the Asia average. ILO constituents have decided to develop a global standard on apprenticeships with a first discussion at the ILC in June 2020. It will be important for employers to participate in this. We also need effective use of technology to promote flexible learning options. For example, video-based modular training programmes have proved effective in facilitating re-skilling and up-skilling of employees within a short period.
Finally, we need to be involved in a consistent dialogue to understand the implications of future scenarios in India of skills and employability vis-à-vis demands from the industries. India is in the process of adopting the necessary policy changes. It is reforming its TVET system by strengthening its governance and by encouraging private sector involvement in the design and implementation of occupational standards. It is in the process of developing the National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF) as the core framework that will address broader and flexible pathways for qualifications. Recognition of Prior Learning mechanism has been developed to formalize qualifications gained informally.

In the coming years, ILO will continue to work with its stakeholders from government, industry and workers through an effective tripartite social dialogue to strengthen - private sector roles in governance, delivery and financing; sectoral approach to skills development; linkages between institutes and enterprises and the apprenticeship programmes; and wider recognition and validation of skills.

In closing, let me emphasize that the world of work is rapidly changing and so should our workers’ skills. We need to insist on convergence to sustain and adapt to these changes, and we constantly need to remind ourselves about the ‘Human Cantered’ approach to achieve the future of work we want to see.

I thank CII for playing a leadership role in this regard.

Thank you for your kind attention.