Article: How are digital learning initiatives bridging the skills gap across ASEAN

#Work & Skills

How are digital learning initiatives bridging the skills gap across ASEAN

ASEAN might soon host one of the largest working populations within Asia. To ensure the employability of such a diverse workforce, skill-building is to become a necessity.
How are digital learning initiatives bridging the skills gap across ASEAN

Given the new business opportunities that digital technologies are opening up for companies across the globe, the consequent shift in modern-day workspaces has been pivotal. Companies are becoming more agile in how they respond to changing market conditions and are in a constant search for talent that can enable them to make the best of such opportunities. For many, both within companies and the ones looking for jobs, this means that they require updated skills to remains employable.

For countries in Southeast Asia, this means addressing learning and skill-building needs across its varied demography to prepare their workforce. As technological disruptions create newer ways for companies to create customer value, many are in search for qualified talent that can enable them to do so. Especially within ASEAN member states who have noted a rise in companies in adopting digital technologies as it becomes one the most digitally active regions across the world.

The need

The gap in digital talent within ASEAN has meant that many countries like Singapore and Malaysia often depend on foreign talent to bridge the gap. In addition, studies show how the region might face large scale jobs displacement owing to technologies like AI and automation becoming more mainstream. Technological disruption will significantly affect ASEAN’s workforce, driving growth and creating new demand for workers. Based on a 2018 study, ‘Technology and the future of ASEAN jobs’ by technology company Cisco and Oxford Economics Data, 6.6 million jobs will become redundant by 2028 across the six largest ASEAN economies – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. By 2028, these countries will require 28 million fewer workers to produce the same level of output as today.

Southeast Asian countries are also a region with one of the fastest-growing working population and their ability to address the skill needs would prove crucial in inclusive growth. Although businesses are projected to also grow owing to the tide of improving demographics and economic conditions, much of it would depend on a skilled workforce. The skill gaps that will need to be addressed include technical skills, such as IT skills, cognitive skills or problem-solving and building proficiency in new technologies such as AI, machine learning and blockchain, among others. Technical skills are however one part of the skill equation, where human skills such as creativity, organizational development, emotional intelligence, and leadership are equally important. Studies have shown that social and collaborative skills can ensure inclusive growth.

Digital learning initiatives a probable solution?

The current rate of digital adoption and evolution in the nature of work has redefined certain ‘work realities’. One of these has been the concept of ‘continuous learning’ which although has existed within companies since a long time, has never been more relevant. The process of upskilling and reskilling is becoming an organizational priority and this reflects in the rising size of the digital learning industry.

When it comes to the working population across major ASEAN economies, candidates are well aware of such changes and hence are actively looking to keep up to date with skill changes. But there are also concerns of not enough being done to address such needs.

A survey conducted by technology market research specialist Vanson Bourne found that 86 percent of Singaporeans agree that the future of work is nothing without training, learning, and development. However, the survey also saw nine in 10 Singaporeans concerned that they are not receiving enough from their organization to remain employable and skilled for the future.

Digital learning and skill-building tech have the potential to overcome barriers of accessibility and availability which often hinder traditional means imparting knowledge and skills. And since digital skills like programming and data analytics often come with their own short shelf life, they make the prospect of continuous learning more possible. For ASEAN economies to truly address their need to meet skill change considerations, both private and public players require greater coordination. This has been seen in countries like Singapore where tech companies have actively partnered with academic institutions to develop STEM talent in the country. A similar format can be followed within other nations to help them utilize digital learning platforms to increase access to better quality skill developments. Even school and university education can be revamped though such learning techniques to bring them closer to industry preferences, especially in tech facing fields to ensure employability. 

Topics: #Work & Skills, Skilling

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