Reskilling revolution urgently needed – and especially in Central and Eastern Europe

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By 2030, 210 million people around the world are expected to change occupation. That is the equivalent to the current population of Brazil or 40% of the European Union. Such thought-provoking figures were largely highlighted and commented at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos earlier this year. Given the impact of such a skills disruption – largely caused by the broad adoption of new technologies – the WEF is urging for a “reskilling revolution”.

The need for rapid reskilling of the workforce is particularly obvious in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), the region I have the privilege to lead at Dell Technologies. It is in fact one of the key conditions to address to avoid unemployment peaks and potential social unrest. And from a purely economic perspective, it is a sine qua non for the CEE growth engine to regain momentum thanks to digitalization, as also mentioned in one of my previous blogs.

Why is reskilling considered even more strategic for the CEE countries? Simply because manufacturing is the absolute heavyweight sector in terms in employment in this part of the world. In this regard, let me share with you a few more figures from that insightful McKinsey report I have referred to previously: Around 50 percent of workplace activities in CEE – the equivalent of approximately 21 million jobs – could potentially be automated by 2030. But if you look at manufacturing alone, this automation ‘potential’ hovers closer to 70%, representing 5,7 million of workers whose jobs are at risk.

So now is the time to act when it comes to reskilling workers and increase participation in lifelong learning. The investments in human potential – via training and change management as well as the migration towards more user-friendly tools – should be at least as important as the investments in technologies such as IoT, AI, robotics, etc.

Wherever possible, private players should also support public programs that are focused on this huge reskilling work. As yet, there are not so many within CEE, but ones such as the National Skills Strategy in Slovenia, in partnership with the OECD, are currently making a difference. Given the weight of the manufacturing sector, it makes sense that a specific industry focus would be welcome. Another inspirational example is government of Estonia, which decided to build world’s first and most advanced digital society through numerous e-governmental project and initiatives. Exposure to digitally enabled interaction with the state surely changes the perception of the whole nation and helps to understand importance of digital skillset in general.

The Governing Board of the European Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition, of which I am the Chair, also focus on this very important task of upskilling and reskilling. We urgently need companies and governments to work hand in hand, as 85% of the jobs to be filled in 2030 have not yet been invented today – so reskilling will be key. Special focus on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is critical, as they – more than any company in the corporate environment – face specific challenges in attracting and retaining digital talents.

As always, I am happy to read your comments and hear about reskilling initiatives that are worth supporting – from the European Skills and Jobs Coalition or thru Dell Technologies. The clock is ticking – let’s not wait.

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