In a review of the prospects of man in the technological age, Hungarian physicist and Nobel Prize winner Denis Gabar said that “forced labor at the exit.” That was in 1963.
Concerns about automation
The debate over the impact of automation on the workplace has been going on for decades. In developed economies, artificial intelligence and automation – according to some authorities – are ready to take off established roles in each sector. Algorithms write sports reports, develop financial service flows, drive trucks and respond to customer inquiries. These tools fundamentally change the way work is organized, affecting all but the most specialized and time-consuming professions. Those who remain in the workforce of people who are shrinking, according to the prevailing story, will work with machines, not machines.
“The trends that are visible today are shaping future labor markets, and in many countries most of those who will be working in 10 years are already working.”
In an era of international interdependence and instant communication, these developments will affect most of us. But it would be a mistake to forget about many people in developed economies, including disadvantaged or vulnerable groups who are still elsewhere. The same can be said for whole developing countries and countries with economies in transition, whose populations need to adapt to changing global production and consumption patterns, while their policies face job losses from automation but do not reduce demand for work.
Experiments such as universal basic income are conceivable in the developed world, but they remain a long-term prospect for people in developing countries and countries in transition whose hopes are to have sustainable, significant jobs in existing labor markets. The trends that are visible today are shaping future labor markets, and in many countries most of those who will be working in 10 years are already working. People need work now, not just 10 years from now, and education and training planners don’t have the luxury of waiting to see what today’s automation concern will turn into. They need to deliver a sophisticated existing skill set while finding ways to adapt and innovate.
Skills for the Future: Transition Management
Meanwhile, broader strategic and demographic challenges shape and interact with skills policy. Climate change, migration and mobility, conflict and instability, the list goes on. The relative importance of each factor depends on the local and national context, but every society needs a vision of the future and the means to implement it.
At the European Training Foundation, we know how practical realities differ in different localities, countries and regions. This is evident from our 29 partner countries, a diverse community from the EU’s neighboring regions. They share common interests with each other and with Member States, and have distinctive traditions, resources and capabilities that should be part of any effort to build a stable and prosperous future for all.
“We need to do more than think about tomorrow if we want to help today.”
We need to do more than think about tomorrow if we want to help today. So we organized a conference called Skills for the Future: Transition Management, focusing on how countries at different stages of development in the wider neighborhood of the European Union can respond to the challenges of global trends in terms of skills. The event on 21 and 22 November with participants from more than 50 countries will promote a global exchange of views and identify potential responses to changing needs in the skills of people and society.
Sustainable solutions that promote international stability, as well as benefit individuals, will not be found if neighboring countries and regions develop them in isolation. And if everything is done for university qualification, because higher education is necessary, but not enough for the strategy of modern qualification.
The European Commission has taken the lead in recognizing the importance of vocational education and training – and its power to change lives – and we are proud that our conference is an official partner of the European Vocational Skills Week, which this year includes more than 500 events in 41 countries.
We need to replace the image of an unskilled worker with little will or autonomy with the idea that everyone can take responsibility for their future with the right tools.
Nowhere is this more important than in the wider neighborhood of the European Union, from the Maghreb to the many sub-Saharan countries. The UN predicts that more than half of the world’s population growth in the next seven years will be in Africa. By 2025, the continent will add half a billion new Internet users.
“Based on this experience, we do not believe that people will give way to cars. Rather, we can reap significant benefits from machines. ”
To succeed, education and training systems must respond to the challenge of developing people’s creative skills, along with a critical and analytical understanding of what career prospects mean by continuing to participate in learning. There should also be better coordination between the public and private sectors, both in the provision of training in enterprises and in the management of training outside them.
From our position as an EU agency with 25 years of experience in assisting countries in developing their education and training systems, we get a panoramic view of these developments. We are witnessing, among other things, the emergence of specialized agencies, new forms of funding and financing, and productive partnerships between sectors. They can be found in large and small countries, urban and remote places, connecting educational paths and crossing national borders. Based on this experience, we do not believe that people will give way to machines. Rather, we can reap significant benefits from machines if we work together to develop a future based on facts, inspiration, and collaboration.