- Says govt. private sector should work together to upskill and reskill workforce
- Stresses need for key reforms in labour and education sectors
By Harshana Sellahewa
As the world is witnessing a time of tremendous challenges, the fourth industrial revolution has changed every aspect of people’s lives and the way they go about their careers, according to Ports, Shipping, Southern Development and Youth Affairs Minister Sagala Ratnayake.
The minister made this remark at a forum titled ‘Emerging Careers for the Future’, organised by the National Human Resources Development Council of Sri Lanka (NHRDC), which coincided with the launch of CareerMe, a mobile app introduced to facilitate youth and school-leavers with career guidance.
The minister stressed that the scale, scope and complexity of the upcoming revolution is different to anything humankind has experienced before.
He said unity is an essential tool to overcome these challenges.
“The public and private sectors, the youth, civil society, clergy don’t come together and work on this together, I think we will be left behind.
“The disruptive technologies, which are at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution, have posed great challenges and offer greater opportunities. It’s unfolding at a speed that we can’t fathom,” the minister stressed. He further went on to say that if the country is to capitalise on these opportunities, both the government and private sector must work with an entrepreneurial spirit to upskill and reskill the current workforce.
“We must also be geared towards attracting fresh human capital that is vital to meet the skill requirement of the modern era,” Ratnayake said.
However, he also went on to say that despite Sri Lanka having one of the most hard-working and productive human resources/workforce, “they do their best when they are overseas and not while in Sri Lanka”.
Suggesting on how to attract fresh human capital, the minister said that a basic step in the right direction is required, that is to get the attitudes right.
“It is a widely shared fear that the disruptions we experience today will result in loss of jobs and employment opportunities. However, I am of the belief that the creation of new jobs and the persistent requirement for fresh talent will offset any loss of employment opportunities.
At the same time, augmentation of the existing jobs through technology may free-up workers from the majority of data processing and information search tasks and will increasingly support them handle high-value tasks. This, however, is the larger picture,” Ratnayake opined.
Meanwhile, the minister advised that it is necessary to understand what the key drivers of this chan
ge would be. He revealed that the World Economic Forum last year identified four key drivers: ubiquitous high-speed mobile data, Artificial Intelligence, big data analytics and cloud technology.
“These drivers and change and their technological breakthroughs will continue to shift the frontier between the work tasks performed by humans and those performed by machines and algorithms, bringing major transformations into global labour markets.
Advancements in mobile Internet are likely to have a great impact on aviation, travel and tourism, financial services, investment and consumer industries in the years to come and not to forget the services offered by the government,” he said.
The advancement in cloud technology will drastically transform the ICT industry, while the availability of big data will have an even broader impact on the financial services, energy utilities and technology industries. These transformations will also have an impact on global health and healthcare, chemistry, advanced materials and biotechnology industries.
“I mention some of these industries simply to demonstrate the magnitude of the revolution that will change the global job market within the next five years,” he added.
Ratnayake stated that if this transformation is managed wisely, it would lead to a new age of good jobs and good quality life, while if it is managed poorly, it would pose the risks of widening the skill gap, creating inequality and increased polarisation.
Meanwhile, the minister went on to reveal another key aspect of this transformation, which is the manner in which the education sector and labour laws are reformed to meet the requirements of the upcoming industrial revolution.
“The topic of reforms is always very contentious in Sri Lanka, but it is important to initiate this discussion now, as we are on the threshold of a critical period that will define the future of our next generation. In this context, relevant intervention points include greater opportunities to reskill and upskill the existing workforces, increase soft and hard infrastructure to power the fourth industrial revolution, changes in school curricula, future training and reinvention of vocational training, while broadening its appeal beyond traditional low-end medium-skilled occupations,” the minister said.