The coronavirus crisis has demonstrated the importance of having the right skills for strategic sectors to perform and for individuals to navigate through life and their careers. It has accentuated the need of digital skills in many aspects of people's daily lives and for business continuity. As Europe and the world are navigating their path to a hopefully more sustainable and greener recovery, the need to improve and adapt skills has become more important than ever. This issue was at the heart of a lively experts discussion on European Skills Agenda & Meaningful work for the digital professional- what are the skills needed for successful green and digital transitions? Organised by ACCA and EY as part of the European Vocational Skills week.
The event was attended by over 160 participants from all over Europe and beyond, including several ACCA members and students.
After a welcome speech by Jeanne Boillet, and a keynote speech by Alicia Homs Ginel, MEP, the panel discussion moderated by Narayanan Vaidyanathan welcomed Glenda Quintini, Senior Economist, Skills and Employability Division, OECD ; Julie Fionda, Deputy head of unit, Skills and Qualifications, DG EMPL, European Commission; Irene Mandl, Head of Unit, Employment, Eurofound; Valentina Guerra, Social Affairs and Training Policy adviser, SMEunited; Salvatore Nigro, CEO, JA Europe.
Experts from the OECD, the European Commission, the European Parliament, SMEunited, JA Europe and the accountancy profession confirmed that the need for Green & Digital skills are increasing and will be key for Europe to successfully benefit from the green & digital transition in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. The European Skills Agenda is built around 12 flagship actions and over 50 actions, and all of them support this shift. Technical skills are in high demand but other skills (leadership, communication, soft skills, …) are becoming increasingly important as organisations are getting more mature in their digital and green transformation.
It was stressed that skills needed are not just specialist skills but skills that facilitate transitions and general awareness, such as transversal skills. The OECD Skills for Jobs database provides a picture of skills needs (skills in surplus v. skills needed) and allows tracking changes over time.
The responses from the over 160 participants of the online conference to a polling question revealed that policy and decision makers need to focus on the groups at high risk of being left behind, notably those with low skills, in jobs at high risk of automation and with limited opportunities for retraining.
Speakers also highlighted the need to reduce the skills mismatch and improve the measurement of skills shortages and surpluses. Speakers also recommended the need to accelerate training and education through online learning and find new forms of learning environments. These responsibilities should be shared across the whole eco-system from schools, universities, businesses, NGOs, etc. and this has to be a common effort from all, policy and decision makers and stakeholders, to keep the future digital and green skills high on the agenda.
Narayanan Vaidyanathan, head of Business Insights at ACCA and co-author of the joint ACCA-EY report Meaningful work for the digital professional, said: ‘Our report shows that new ways of working will accelerate a move towards digitisation and promote careers that are intellectually stretching and driven by a renewed sense of purpose. Businesses also need to rethink work and life balance. As labour force is decreasing in many parts of the world, human skills such as leadership and vision, commercial and business skills, emotional intelligence and team working abilities, are becoming increasingly important. The digital and green conversation goes way beyond finance professionals. It is important to think of engaging with the rest of society in order to develop an integrated view on skills in the broader society’.
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