Digital platforms and the digital labor markets that they facilitate increase employment opportunities, but how well equipped is the future workforce to face the uncertainties brought about by digital platforms and other emerging technologies such as AI, robotics and 3-D printing?
LIRNEasia’s research on digital platform enabled gig jobs in India, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka points to the importance of digital literacy and the ability to adapt to new situations as essential competencies for success in these digital labor markets.Our work underscores what is being predicted in general about the competencies required for the workplace of the future. For example, as the World Bank noted in 2013:
“Automation is reshaping work and the skills needed for work. Demand for advanced cognitive skills and socio-behavioral skills are increasing. Demand for narrow job-specific skills is waning. There is increasing demand for skills associated with ‘adaptability’. These are a combination of specific cognitive skills (critical thinking and problem solving) and socio behavioral skills (creativity and curiosity) that are transferable across jobs.
Interestingly, such competencies are part of what educationists have been advocating as competencies needed for success in living and working in the 21st century, but using terms like Generic, Basic or Transversal competencies. In a 2016 report on Assessment of Transversal competencies (or TVCs) in school systems across Asia, UNESCO found that there is awareness of the importance of TVCs in school education but implementation remains poor across the region. With less than 10% of all youth on average progressing to any education and training beyond school, imparting and assessing TVCs while in schools is the best bet for preparing the workforce of the future in the developing world.
In a timely symposium on the subject held on August 28that the BMICH in Colombo, LIRNEasia invited key stakeholders in education in Sri Lanka for a consultation, with Professor Esther Care of University Melbourne as the keynote speaker. Esther Care is the first author of the 2017 UNESCO report titled “Assessing Transversal competencies in the Asia Pacific.”
Symposium participants agreed broadly on the following:
- A focus on Transversal Competencies (TVCs) in school education is essential if our children are to succeed in face of uncertainties in the workplace of the future.
- Our school education is largely focused on subject knowledge targeting success at national examinations, despite the stated national objectives of education and related basic competencies as identified by the National Education Commission in 1992 and modified and/or reiterated by Commissions since then.
- Civil society should work with national authorities as a matter of urgency to speed up the pace of educational reforms so that our children get a “Balance of Subject Competencies and Transversal Competencies” in their education without delay.
A paper on the topic is attached here.