We are confronted with more and more skills shortages as a result of the current labour market shortages. Due to the shrinking labour force and technological changes, tackling these shortages is becoming a huge challenge. Check out below overview to learn how to overcome this challenge like a pro.
The number of workers of working age is falling. This reduces the contribution of labour to economic growth. Labor productivity is therefore becoming increasingly important. At the same time, technological developments are changing workplace competencies. Recent OECD research based on the Adult Competence Survey (PIAAC) shows that a large number of jobs will be automated or disappear. For most jobs that won’t disappear, the range of tasks will change drastically.
Lifelong learning, access to education and workplace training, are top priorities for Europe. The development of strong basic competencies makes employees more resilient to changes in the required competencies. The European Skills Agenda places particular emphasis on digital skills, critical thinking, communication skills, flexibility and responsibility.
Promoting a learning culture in enterprises is important. In Belgium, we are lagging behind. The Eurostat figures from 2018 speak for themselves. Only 8.5% of the working population is following courses our taking training. That is 2.6% less than the European average. The Netherlands is doing much better with a participation rate of 19.1%. Absolute frontrunners are Finland (23.5%), Sweden (29.2%) and Switzerland (31.6%). Some groups are lagging behind in all countries: the low-skilled, older workers, workers in flexible jobs and immigrants. One of the causes of the low employment rate in our country is the fierce resistance to learning. Together with the Netherlands, Japan and Korea, Belgium is at the bottom of the list in terms of “willingness to learn” in the workplace. Developing a strong learning culture and overcoming the resistance is therefore absolutely necessary if we want to maintain our competitive position.
There is an imbalance between the supply and demand of skills and this has consequences for our economy. The tight labour market has contributed to increasing shortages especially for jobs related to technical and scientific activities, ICT, healthcare and education sectors. There is a high demand for both high- and medium-skilled profiles. Balancing the ratio of required and existing competencies (competence management) can lead to lower personnel costs, higher labour productivity and a greater potential for companies to innovate and/or introduce new technologies.
When it comes to deploying competencies on the work floor, companies mainly focus on the need and not the supply of competencies. However, companies that do it the other way around, especially looking at how they can deploy existing competencies optimally, have more satisfied employees, higher productivity and lower staff turnover. They do this by looking for ways to put the right person, with the right drive and the right interests in the right place. Efficiency and returns remain important, of course, but the focus is on the strengths and not on the shortages.
The Flemish employers’ organization Voka argues for more attention to lifelong learning and a different approach to stimulate this. Voka puts forward five measures. In doing so, the government, employers and employees must each assume their responsibilities.
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