Amsterdam (Brussels Morning) It has been almost two years since Covid-19 was first identified, and if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that things can change – and quickly. As lockdowns spread around the world, we had to adapt. We had to learn to communicate with new tools and work from home in ways that might have been unimaginable previously.
However, the world of work was already changing before the pandemic hit. Digital technologies have created a huge range of new jobs while sweeping away many others. And the rate of change is increasing. New sectors are emerging, like artificial intelligence and green technologies, while a swathe of manual labour jobs are disappearing.
That means life-long learning schemes, upskilling and reskilling will all become crucial as people navigate the ever-shifting workplace and job market, brought about by globalisation, digitalisation, robotisation and the green transition.
This is the message from our new report in the Sustainability@Work series, entitled Toward 2030 together. It points to the fact that the world is at a pivotal moment as we strive to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This is a huge task, and if we are to succeed, we need a labour market that is fit-for-purpose and future-proof. It is not just about creating resilience in case a new pandemic hits. It is also about taking account of global megatrends, like digitalisation and demographic change.
The report shows how cooperation and partnerships must play a role in creating a labour market that is accessible for all. It means that governments, businesses, workers and other stakeholders need to talk with one another about the common challenges they face, and the common solutions they can forge.
The fact is that, across Europe and the world, there is a mismatch between the jobs needed by businesses and the jobs sought by workers. There is a widening global skills gap, and we need to readjust our education and training to reflect the real market priorities.
The Sustainability@Work highlights a Randstad programme in the Netherlands that could serve as a model for how a public-private partnership can support those currently struggling to access the labour market. The programme, called Baanbrekend, which was founded in 2010 and executed by Randstad RiseSmart Netherlands, helped deliver a four-fold increase in raising the chances of people seeking a job, and ensuring direct monetary benefits over the three subsequent years after their successful placement.
However, for programmes like Baanbrekend to work, each piece in the puzzle needs to play its part. Governments need to set policies and create instruments as well as basics such as a regulatory framework that ensures decent work for all. Employers need to foster talent and reduce barriers to entry into the job market. And workers need to invest in reskilling and upskilling, especially with regard to digital skills.
This ties in with the European Commission’s 2020 ‘’Pact for Skills’’, which calls on public and private organisations to develop upskill and reskill schemes to support a fair and resilient recovery. The Commission argues that these will become essential elements in a healthy workplace, a concept that should put the wellbeing of employees – and the wider community – at the heart of the economy.
All these issues and themes were discussed at EurActiv debate, Upskilling & Reskilling as part of the Well-Being of the European Workforce, which was held online on 28 October. The debate looked at how much our work has changed, and at the same time, how much we still need to change. It examined the blurring of work and private life, and the new questions that have arisen about mental health from stress, burnout and other pressures.
This is an issue that the All Policies for a Healthy Europe coalition has emphasised: how can we develop best practices on upskilling and reskilling so that the world of work is adaptable, relevant and a welcoming environment all at the same time?
All European stakeholders will have to address these challenges as our lives and work continue to evolve. The real question is whether we can adapt fast enough.