Upskilling, lifelong learning, the role of the education system, and educating users to understand the importance of technology and what it can do for them, were some of the areas explored at today’s lively panel discussion.
For Lidia Stepinska-ustasiak, Head of Social and Corporate Policy Unit, Office of Electronic Communications, Poland, a key area of focus is upskilling, the progression made by individuals based on skills they have acquired while doing their job. She sees the role of upskilling becoming increasingly significant going forward.
“We need to make sure that people understand that upskilling is now part of their job,” explained Ghaida Alanazi, Digital Education Lead, National Digital Transformation Unit. People need twenty first century competences she explained, and to be able analyse issues from a host of different perspectives. As well as learning the right skills, graduates need the right mindset, so that they approach the workforce ready for a challenging job where they will need to deploy many different skillsets, not just look for an exact fit to what they have studied.
As well as the right mindset, graduates need to have studied in the relevant areas. Panelists agreed that the education system must equip students with the right skills for the workplace of the future. This could be a question of employers feeding back their needs into the education system, according to moderator Susan Teltscher, Head, Human Capacity Building Division, BDT, ITU. The industry needs to communicate so universities equip graduates with the skills they want and need for jobs, explained Hakima Chaouchi, Research Professor, Institut Mines-Télécom, France.
Alanazi explained that Saudi Arabia has a digital transition strategy, involving all stakeholders from government to education institutions and the private sector, to work together on the challenge digital skills. It is not just a matter of equipping students with skills, but also, for example, ensuring that people wishing to make mid-life career changes get access to the right skills to enable to them to make the transition. We want to make sure no one falls through the cracks, she explained.
This “lifelong learning”- the ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for personal or professional reasons – is essential in keeping digital skills up to date and future proof. 30-50 year olds currently in the workplace will need to adapt to the fact that their job may be subject to change, according to Kristóf Bárdos, Co-founder, International Business Developer, GreenFox Academy, Hungary. Opportunities will be narrowed for them if they don’t educate themselves and if they don’t understand the language of technology. We need to ask ourselves what are those digital skills, soft skills that I can acquire?
The idea of lifelong learning process is great, said Chaouchi, but it could prove expensive for the industry. People need to understand what technology can do for them, not just in terms of adding to their skills but more broadly how it can make their lives easier, explained Teltscher.
From a government, as well as an industry perspective, incentivising upskilling is important. For an end user “it makes sense to train myself, as my government and employer are incentivising,” explained Bárdos. Upskilling needs to be an ongoing process, and if you don’t do it for five or ten years it can become difficult to restart.
Education institutions need to be more aware of new digital tools to make learning fast and more targeted. Students, too, have their part to play – they must get used to the idea that they will have to adapt all their working life. Wrapping up, Sofia Fernandez de Mesa, Director of International Relations, Telefonica, and ProFuturo Foundation, reminded delegates of the need to measure the impact of the technologies, skills and competencies needed in future.