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The Role of Business on Building Skills for Tomorrow and Ensuring Equal and Inclusive Opportunities Post COVID

Nazrene Mannie, Executive Director, GAN Global Apprenticeship Network
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The Business 20 (B20) established over ten years ago in 2010 is the official G20 dialogue forum with the global business community. Represented by companies and business organisations, it is among the most prominent G20 Engagement Groups. This year’s B20 Summit is hosted by Confindustria (the Italian employers’ federation and national chamber of commerce). Representing an overall business community of over 6.5 million businesses, the B20’s policy recommendations are the foundation to spurring global economic growth and development.

The B20’s role this year is especially crucial given the urgent context and unprecedented nature of our current pandemic state. Summed up by the B20 Chair, Ms Emma Marcegaglia, she noted that “the world has changed drastically over the past months, a period that has shaken the foundations of our societies, disrupting how we live and work, and placing an unprecedented strain on our families and communities. Global poverty has risen for the first time in the last two decades, disparities across individuals and countries have been amplified, and thousands of enterprises are facing existential threats”.

In the face of these challenges, it is encouraging to note positive signs and signals, particularly the focus on international cooperation and increasing cross-country coordination as a key lever to promote innovative solutions to the global skilling crisis. Earlier this month, the B20 Italy officially conveyed its final communiqué to the G20 Presidency, one month ahead of the G20 Summit.

As part of the priorities for the B20 Italy, the task force on Employment and Education has made its recommendations on issues relevant to skilling workforces.

The various Task Forces have cohesively adopted three key messages to reshape the future – to ACT, INCLUDE and SHARE, with constituents agreeing to an overarching urgent need to:

  • Empower Women and Youth to Ensure Equal Opportunities for All
  • Unlock the Digital Transformation to Build Skills for Tomorrow
  • Scale up Sustainable Finance and Support Impact Investing and Financing
  • Include LDCs and MSMEs in the Global Economy by Fostering Access to Trade Finance

Policy recommendations on skilling and productivity from the business community to the G20

There is a clear need for an increased multilateral effort to address the impact of the pandemic on economic and labour market growth. With a specific reference to the skilling agenda, the Employment and Education Task Force’s work can be summarized in the three policy recommendations put forward to the G20:

1. PREPARING WORKFORCE SKILLS FOR FUTURE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTIONS

Prepare adults and children for a fast-evolving human and machine workplace with adapted skills training.

2. ENSURING INCLUSIVE OPPORTUNITIES AS WE REBUILD THE WORKPLACE OF THE FUTURE

Partner with the private sector and with civil society experts and organisations to activate and formalise the full labour force, building a human-centred recovery and a fully inclusive future of work.

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3. IMPROVING LABOUR MARKET POLICIES AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORKS TO DRIVE PRODUCTIVITY AND GROWTH

Accelerate the implementation of labour market reforms, in partnership with the private sector and all stakeholders, to ensure dynamic and flexible labour markets that drive total factor productivity and a sustainable recovery.

An all-inclusive approach to skilling, empowerment, and equal opportunities

The focus on skilling is complemented by the focus on empowerment and equal opportunities. The B20 has put forward a call to the G20 to lead by example in designing a global recovery that is centred on sustainable and inclusive growth, while ensuring innovation, responsiveness and agility. Furthermore, the G20 is urged to implement strategies and solutions that are delivered in a meaningful and targeted way, allowing for the full participation of women, youth and other marginalised groups in business and society.

The B20 Summit 2021 highlighted the need for unity and pragmatism to set the pathway for a “Year of Renaissance” – allowing for sustainable and inclusive development in combatting the impact of the pandemic. Leaders from the public and private sector need a shared vision to establish a holistic, global cooperative paradigm that ensures the viability of future generations and resilience to endure future shocks.

Public-private partnerships to reshape the future of work and education

The message from this year’s B20 recommendations is clear – we need to not only recover, but to build back better. And to do so, we need partnerships and a shared commitment from government, business, and civil society. GAN Global was founded upon these principles as a policy recommendation from the B20 to G20 in 2013, during a time of rampant youth unemployment, spurred by the global financial crisis, while businesses on one hand were facing skilling gaps, despite a more educated talent pool. Fast forward seven years later, private sector stakeholders have an even more urgent need to skill agile workforces adapted to the future of work, while G20 countries are faced with an aging population, and a need to adapt educational systems to increased automation.

Since GAN Global’s founding, we have also widened our scope to focus not only on apprenticeships for youth, but also work-based learning programmes adapted for all. This shift in strategy came about upon the realization that companies simply cannot cut and paste a four-year training model that works in highly developed economies, for specific sectors. To adapt to continuously evolving industries, training programmes must also be agile and adaptable for the specific target group and sector.

During pandemic times, we have also learned that changes brought on by automation will continue to underpin the importance of meeting future labour market needs by filling in the digital skills gap. GAN Global members are investing in lifelong learning, while also upholding principles of diversity, inclusiveness and accessibility – tenets that will remain key issues on the B20/G20 agenda on shaping the future of work.

Nazrene Mannie is the Executive Director of GAN Global and Member of the B20 Employment and Education Task Force and Special Initiative on Women’s Empowerment.

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