Posted on Jul 31, 2019
The boss of an international energy company has called for a new expert task-force to be set up to address “the creeping global skills crisis.”
Alexey Likhachev says the issue is as serious as climate change but that relatively little is being done about it.
“A problem of comparable gravity, the growing global skills gap, has been blithely batted away as peripheral by top policy-makers across the world for too long now,” he said.
According to latest reports, over a billion people in the world – about a quarter of the total global workforce - are in either under or overqualified for their current jobs.
Mismatched and missing skills are estimated to cost the world economy an estimated US$5 trillion each year - even more than Germany’s annual GDP.
And Likhachev, Director General of Rosatom, the Russian nuclear energy company, warns, “That’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
As the skills issue is “as pressing” as climate change, he says it requires a “concerted” policy response involving all stakeholders across the world.
One possible solution, he argues, is the creation of a body similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is recognised as the world authority on that topic.
“An analogous international expert taskforce on the skills gap and talent shortage could be created to develop the basis of a policy response,” he says.
“It would be empowered with gathering a comprehensive set of data drawing on country-level statistics, reviewing best practices and new ideas and drawing up recommendations for a robust, concerted policy response.”
He explains, “Above such an expert panel would need to be given the ‘teeth’ to draw up binding commitments by governments and corporations alike.”
Writing in the French Les Echos, he says there is a “growing mismatch” in the labour market with graduates and mid-career professionals struggling to find jobs whilst employers struggle to fill crucial roles.
While the digital revolution, advances in robotics and artificial intelligence and a transition to clean energy are accelerating the pace of change, current training and talent management programmes can no longer keep up.
The list of crucial roles that are in short supply “grows longer by the day”, ranging from builders to engineers and medics, he states.
“In a decade or so from now, when the last of the baby-boomers ride into the sunset with no replacement in sight, the void left behind is not only likely to be a threat to economic growth but worse still to human lives," he predicts.
Likhachyov says that the global energy sector, and nuclear power in particular, are areas where the skills gap has been felt most keenly and that the so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) talent pipeline is “drying up.”
He believes a growing consensus is emerging for a more ‘human-centred’ and flexible system, allowing for multiple professional moves during someone’s career.
There is no shortage of inspiring ideas to tackle the skills gap, including, in the United States, ‘RETAIN’ (Regional Talent Innovation Networks) which unites otherwise competing tech companies to jointly fund targeted training and re-training programmes.
Denmark boasts an ingenious system called Flexicurity, a safety net in the labour market for whenever an employee is made redundant.
Even so, Likhachyov advocates “root-and-branch reform” including a global ‘talent ecosystem’ in which individual countries and companies are all interconnected in cross-border skills networks. In such a system everyone has access to the same set of data, can tap into a shared pool of ideas and freely exchange information.
Likhachyov, 58, has led Rosatom since 2016, with goals to increase competitiveness, add new markets and products, and boost its share of global nuclear technology exports.
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