By Dinesh Weerakkody
Mature markets today are stagnating and are looking to little or no growth over the next few years; the Euro crisis has made it worse. Then, there are relatively fast growth economies like the BRICS or the CIVETS and others. Each market is different but, they share a common problem – skills. There is a serious global skills shortage in three areas: the skills to run core businesses; the skills to upgrade current performance and, the skills to “future proof” an industry or develop the workforce for a new one.
Lee Kuan Yew, argued many years ago that “Trained talent is the yeast that transforms a society and makes it rise.” Developing countries would have to prepare for further downside risks with the debt problems and the growth problems in Europe and the US. Slower growth is already visible in weakening global trade and commodity prices.
The key to improving labour market competitiveness in the economy lies in raising human resource capabilities; that is, to make appropriate investments in human capital through higher education and professional training in order to generate more wealth and manage new technologies to drive innovation. In this new era of intensified globalization and international competition, we can no longer rely on cheap labour to gain competitiveness. We must continue to invest in human resource, since the high growth industries of the future such as technology (IT) Services and biotechnology industries, require an increasingly skilled labour force.
Lessons learned from other successful countries in attracting FDI indicate that a Nation’s ability to create a skilled human resource base is crucial for multinational companies in order to relocate firms and world class high-tech plants to new markets.
The further we travel into the current decade the more pressing becomes the need for high order skills and for new ways of understanding what skills education really means.
Formulating and applying solutions to emerging problems of water and food supply, capturing carbon and recycling materials are matters for high-level skill, deep applied knowledge and the capacity to theories and solve unique problems. It calls for a new way of understanding the relationship between practical skills and knowledge production/ management.
It calls for strategies to enable specialists from different fields, skill types and levels, to work together as high-order problem solving teams. Yet despite recent reports and financial incentives, most educational systems in South Asia lag behind in practice.
There is a need for South Asia to integrate work placements and other forms of applied vocational learning into higher education curricula, and we need initiatives to shift dominant conceptions of vocational education as a pathway for the less able or overcome university fears that too close a relationship will lead to the standardization of academic work and the erosion of academic freedom. Developing work force skills remains one of the best means to achieve this goal on a global basis through the cooperative action of our regional member countries by raising awareness of the essential contribution that skills and high standards of competence make to the achievement of economic success and also for personal fulfilment.
Talent today has become the foundation of value creation for any economy, therefore injecting an endless stream of good talent into the veins of a country would become the key for sustained economic success.
(The writer has held senior positions both in the private and public sectors)