Investing in digital upskilling of APEC’s workforce critical

Investing in digital upskilling of APEC’s workforce critical

JAKARTA – Hiring of workers with digital skills has grown substantially in the last three years across the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) region, according to a recent report issued by the APEC Human Resources Development Working Group and received here on Tuesday.

The report highlights the gap between workforce supply and demand and emphasizes the urgent need for member economies to invest in digital upskilling and reskilling of their workforce.

Research by LinkedIn and Burning Glass Technologies in the ‘APEC Closing the Digital Skills Gap Report-Trends and Insights’ has found that the digital hiring rate across the region increased three-fold between 2016 and 2019.

While the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic led to a hiring slowdown in the first quarter of 2020, the report predicts continued strong demand for digital talent, with a greater than one-fold increase in March 2020 compared to the previous year.

“Digitalization offers us many opportunities and challenges, the most pressing one is to address and manage the discrepancy between industry and education and training systems, where the former moves and innovates a lot faster than the latter,” Park Dong Sun, chair of the APEC Human Resources and Development Working Group, said.

“Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation and adoption in almost all aspects of our lives, it is extremely critical for policymakers to look into measures to support the upskilling and reskilling of our workforce,” Park added.

The report underscored the importance of reskilling workers in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic as many are looking for new opportunities, and it is “necessary to have at least baseline digital skills”.

It is also critical to equip new workers with digital skills so they can thrive in the workforce, the report said.

As businesses are forced to adjust to a more digital work environment, workers may also need to expand their skill set to work efficiently and effectively from home or other locations.

In addition to efforts to measure the digital skills gap, the initiative also announced the finalization of a digital readiness checklist designed to help APEC governments, employers, and academia understand their levels of preparedness for jobs in the digital age and to support their efforts to upskill and reskill workers amid the pandemic.

“Digital skills and remote work have become critical to retaining employment and to economic survival, with occupations requiring higher levels of digital skills more likely to offer remote work opportunities during these challenging times,” Andrew Tein of Wiley, co-chair of the APEC Closing the Digital Skills Gap Forum, said.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also exposed the risks for those whose jobs are least digital, such as workers in the frontline services sector.

As these least digital jobs are also least open to remote work, workers in this sector are negatively affected, the report said. This dichotomy may deepen inequality if they do not have the necessary digital skills to transition to other jobs.

“We must come together to prepare the current and next generation of workers to have the digital skills necessary to succeed in the new economy,” Jennifer Thornton of the Business-Higher Education Forum and co-chair of the APEC Closing the Digital Skills Gap Forum said.

“A skilled workforce is key to our continued success and to increasing opportunity across APEC economies,” she said. (Antara)

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