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By Nikhil Seth, Executive Director of UNITAR
UN Assistant Secretary- General, Executive Director UNITAR

All countries stand to benefit from having a healthy and well educated workforce with the knowledge and skills needed for productive and fulfilling work and full participation in society.

The significant and alarming mismatch between the skills available and the needs of the rapidly developing emerging economies will become one of the major constraints to sustained and sustainable growth. This will be most evident on the pathway to sustainable development and in meeting the goals and targets of Agenda 2030for sustainable development.The mismatch will limit the growth trajectory, limit the transformative shifts required to end poverty irreversibly and limit the urgent shifts in agriculture, industry, energy and cities which are the cornerstones of a prosperous future for our people and for the health of our planet.

The transformation and growth of emerging economies as a result of globalisation and the digital revolution have resulted in emerging economies such as India, China and Brazil moving up the value chain, opening up demand for labour in new sectors including in service and highly-skilled industries,such as engineering, healthcare,information and communications technology (ICT), leisure and professional services.

In addition, the types of work that people do and the ways in which they are done worldwide are being revolutionized by new technologies,which are reshaping production lines, shifting towards manufacturing automation, replacing human labour with robotics, and transforming our need to be flexible and technologically savvy in how we do business.

By 2020, it is estimated that there will be a global surplus of 90 to 95million low-skilled workers and a global shortage of 83 to 85 million high- and mid-skilled workers. A Manpower Group Talent Shortage Survey (2013) showed that skills shortages prevented 45% of employers in the Asia-Pacific region filling vacancies. In India, this number soared to 61% of employers, while in Brazil 68% had trouble recruiting the right workforce. The report concluded that developing nations have to narrow the skills gap and “produce more workers capable of doing talent intensive jobs that require higher qualifications”.It is apparent that there will be a need to invest in technical and vocational training. Countries may have plenty of educated young workers, but at a time of industrial upgrading and ever-increasing technological sophistication, the knowledge and skills gained in schools and colleges are often insufficient.

MEETING THE SKILLS GAPS IN EMERGING ECONOMIESTraining must be linked to the current needs of the labour market, as well as anticipating and building competencies for the jobs of the future. A key to success will also be in public-private partnerships, to leverage the resources and structure of the existing education system and scale up business solutions to meet the skills gaps.

Governments must work with the private sector, to mobilise corporate citizenship arms of businesses to help ensure that the skills gap does not become debilitating to progress.

Nikhil Seth, UN Assistant Secretary-General, Executive Director UNITAR Effective partnerships between governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, training institutions and providers will also be critical to anchoring the world of learning in the world of work, ensuring that the “right” skill sare taught and learned by workers.

These partnerships will be pivotal to building quality apprenticeship systems and incorporating core employ abilitys kills into training for young people,including basic and portable high-level skills, such as teamwork, problem solving, ICT, communication and language skills.

It will also be vital to reach out to the furthest and leave no one behind, by expanding access to employment-related training in rural communities in order to improve livelihoods, reduce poverty,and equip women and men to work in the formal economy.

Finally, given that the challenge of upgrading education and skills training systems is shared across the developing world, national governments should develop knowledge-sharing and South-South partnerships,to develop curriculums, train teachers and educators, and share best practices.With the right investment, partnerships and planning, this challenge will bean opportunity to build a resilient and resourceful talent pool for the future.Closing the skills gap will provide good and decent jobs relevant to the growth of economies, thus promoting social cohesion, prosperity and expansion of opportunities for business and development.

The 2030 Agenda highlighted that“all countries stand to benefit from having a healthy and well educated workforce with the knowledge and skills needed for productive and fulfilling work and full participation in society”. The opportunity that closing the skills gap represents,will contribute to many of the SDGs.In fact, I would argue, that given the deep interrelationship of all the goals,matching training and education to skills needed will be pivotal to achieving the transformative agenda. Since skills are a foundation of decent work, and decent work is at the heart of sustainable human development, equipping the workforce with the skills required for the jobs of today and those of tomorrow is a strategic concern in the national growth and development outlooks of all G20 countries.

As the training arm of the United Nations, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) is firmly committed to ensuring that business and governmental sectors collaborate to deliver capacity building and training to ensure that the skills demand is metin all countries.

UNITAR is working closely with Governments, non-governmental organisations, academia and private sector partners, to facilitate sustain ableand transformational growth that benefits all. Investment in inclusive, gender sensitive, youth entrepreneurship,environmental management and green jobs programmes, as well as engineering, science and technology training opportunities, are just some of the ways in which UNITAR is working to strengthen human capital for sustainable development in developing countries.

To find out more go to www.unitar.org or contact us directly at info@unitar.org.

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