Supporting social mobility through skills and learning
David Barnes, Deloitte Global Managing Director for Public Policy, is travelling to Durban, South Africa this week as part of the Deloitte delegation to the WEF Africa Summit, where he will be discussing the intersection of the future of work and social mobility with other attendees.
Digitization is uprooting significant areas of our lives, leaving many concerned that new technology could threaten their ability to provide for their families. Add to that the widespread debate that access to digital advancements can define the haves and have nots, and ongoing concern that the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ is actually going to have a negative impact on society.
This is especially true for today’s young workers. The 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey shows that just 36% of millennials believe they will be better off than their parents. Although this skepticism is understandable, today’s technological advancements can also offer significant opportunities if we find the right way to harness them for all. At the workplace, we believe technology will in fact augment the workforce. It will change jobs and create jobs, and ultimately require ongoing skills development at unprecedented speeds.
As set out in the B20 Education and Employment Working Paper, to harness these technology developments we will need to develop modern education and skills training that match the requirements of new demands of work. As the B20 recommendations rightly suggest, business and government needs to come together to develop policies that deliver high quality, job-relevant education and skills development for life.
There is no disagreement that today’s education and training systems need to be better aligned with current and future labor market needs. We need to shift away from education systems that stop once people enter the workforce, to a system whereby skills and knowledge are developed continually. Otherwise, the labor market will not efficiently or effectively be able to support the needs of the economy.
It is difficult to generalize what reforms are needed across different markets but some basic principles are fundamental. We need a skills development infrastructure that broadens the base of skills and abilities, and focuses especially on cognitive and social skills. This system should provide basic technical and STEM learning, while avoiding getting caught up in the STEM hype to the detriment of humanities and other necessary ‘soft’ skills.
Additionally, it is important to find ways to reduce the cost of institution-based education in those markets where education is prohibitive for many. Education and skills development are some of the most important tools that can be used to reduce inequality and promote social mobility.
Businesses have an important role to play in giving individuals a chance to be considered for roles, regardless of their economic background. This is why Deloitte UK and other member firms have adopted contextualized recruiting and introduced programs like the BrightStart Higher Apprenticeship scheme, which provides an alternative pathway to Deloitte for those who have potential but not necessarily the academic grades, to get in the door.
By breaking down the skills and learning barriers for the least advantaged individuals, businesses can increase employment inclusivity, which has been proven to be a smart business decision. It will also go some way to addressing social mobility.
Social mobility remains a complex challenge that business and government leaders must address. By harnessing digitalization for education and skills learning, we can help enable a workforce that is prepared to meet future labor market needs, and can support greater economic inclusivity.