Pandemic opportunity to revive pending reforms in education, skill space: Dharmendra Pradhan

Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. File   | Photo Credit: Kamal Narang

With the accelerated automation due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic making it necessary to reskill the workforce globally, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Thursday said India’s New Education Policy gives a lot of focus to reskilling and upskilling but this pandemic should be seen as an opportunity to relook at all pending reforms in this area.

Participating in a panel discussion on ‘Skilling the Global Workforce’ during the World Economic Forum’s week-long online Davos Agenda Summit, he said 2.5 crore new people are joining the workforce every year in India.

“Our challenge is, in an aspirational society, how to blend aspiration, education, knowledge, employability and skill,” he added.

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Mr. Pradhan, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, and Steel said, “The recent reforms in education space, known as the New Education Policy 2020, is very much focussed on reskilling and upskilling and this pandemic has given us an enormous opportunity to relook at certain pending things.” We must have the vision to reform education and reskilling policy and the pandemic has presented an opportunity to rethink and revitalise this work, he added.

According to the WEF’s ‘Future of Jobs Report 2020’, nearly 43% of the businesses surveyed are set to reduce their workforce, and 34% plan to expand their workforce due to technology integration.

During the session, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Director-General Guy Ryder said, “The photograph of global labour markets during 2020 is an ugly photograph.” Globally, 22.5 crore jobs have been lost and 8.1 crore people have become inactive in the global labour force in the last year, he said.

IT giant Infosys CEO Salil Parekh said companies must make sure that skilling opportunities are available to all employees. “We must go ahead with reskilling because with the change in technology, the digital transformation, that is the key thing that enterprises can do. Reskilled people can support all the new digital work,” he said.

Singapore’s Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo, who was also on the panel, said the future of work is always evolving and her country has been focussed on giving people access to the training they need in their careers.

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“It is our key strategy to enable our people to keep progressing in life with new skills and jobs. The key has been to involve employers more and challenging them to think about what workers need in the future,” she added.

Alain Dehaze, Adecco Group CEO, said individuals, employers and governments must engage together to support skilling efforts.

“You need to stay relevant, as an individual and as a company,” he added.

ILO’s Ryder said there has also been a disruption in education in the past year. While there has been a migration to online learning, it has been unevenly spread, he added.

“We need to make a distinction between what we are doing today under the duress of living with COVID-19 and what we can choose to do when we have vanquished the pandemic,” he said.

Mr. Ryder cautioned that if people are imagining a world where digitally integrated ways of working are going to be more predominant, then we have a wide bundle of issues to address, including skills and regulations.

He called for urgent steps to address the inequality of skills, arguing that it’s much easier to gain skills if you already have some and that those low-skilled workers could be left out of new opportunities.

“We risk coming out of this crisis even more unequal than we went into it,” he said.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2021 1:18:36 PM |

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