FUTURE OF THE WORKFORCE

Prepare for changing nature of work

Employers, employees have limited understanding of what changes will take place.

In Summary
  • Changes in the structure of the economy, especially the preeminence of the service sector and the surge in technology and perhaps automation, have altered the nature of work.
  • However, the supply side, education and training are not adjusting rapidly enough in response.

A growing body of evidence suggests that there is a skills mismatch. Employers complain that they have trouble finding the skills they need, and workers looking for entry level jobs often complain about not finding work that match their training and skills, or any work at all.

Although rather dated, a survey commissioned in 2013 by McKinsey is very instructive. The survey found that only 43 percent of employees, in nine countries—Brazil, Germany, India, Mexico, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States—reported that they could find enough skilled entry level workers.

A survey conducted the East Africa Institute (EAI )of the Aga Khan University in 2019 revealed that 47 percent of youth could not find entry level jobs because they lacked the requisite experience. Employers reported that Kenyan youth in entry level jobs lacked technical, marketing, sales and financial planning skills.

 

Moreover, according to the EAI study, Kenyan youth in entry level jobs, in both formal and informal sector, reported that they lacked technical, socio-emotional and entrepreneurial skills. The youth also reported that the technological skills they possessed or acquired through education or training were inadequate for the jobs they held.

Changes in the structure of the economy, especially the preeminence of the service sector and the surge in technology and perhaps automation, have altered the nature of work. However, the supply side, education and training are not adjusting rapidly enough in response. Moreover, the workforce, CEOs and leaders of human resources have not grasped the full implications of the disruption.

The MGI study reveals that the demand for technological skills will grow by 55 percent by 2030. The growth in the demand for technological skills will cause a surge in digital skills, beyond the basics. Moreover, the demand for socio-emotional skills such as leadership, teamwork and managing others and oneself will rise by 24 percent.

In 2018 McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) presented a report on the imminent shifts in the demand for skills and how work is organised. The report focused on banking, energy, healthcare, insurance, retail mining and manufacturing in the US and five European countries.

The findings are both relevant and instructive for developing country context and in many ways are consistent with the findings of the entry level skills study conducted by the EAI.

The MGI study reveals that the demand for technological skills will grow by 55 percent by 2030. The growth in the demand for technological skills will cause a surge in digital skills, beyond the basics. Moreover, the demand for socio-emotional skills such as leadership, teamwork and managing others and oneself will rise by 24 percent.

According to the MGI report, the demand for higher cognitive skills such as creativity, critical thinking and decision making and complex reasoning will grow at double digit rates. However, other higher cognitive skills such as quantitative, literacy and writing skills may not see a surge in demand over the next 10 years.

The entry level skills study conducted by the EAI revealed that employers and employees had limited understanding of what technological and organisational changes will take place. Hence, they have no sense of the workforce of the future.

 

Industry, education and training institutions must collaborate to redesign curricula to produce a workforce the meets the macroeconomic and technological needs of the present and the future. And time is of the essence.

The views expressed are the writer’s