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BBC debates the skills gap

9 July 2010

Click on the image to go to the BBC World Debate home page

By the end of next year, around 15 million new jobs will be needed to get OECD countries back to pre-crisis levels of unemployment. That’s the “jobs gap” .

Paradoxically, there’s also a “skills gap” – a shortage of qualified people to fill job vacancies. According to David Arkless of  Manpower Inc., companies in Europe have around three million unfilled vacancies. Why? Despite high unemployment, they still can’t find the right people.

Arkless was speaking on the BBC’s World Debate, which was recorded on Wednesday at the OECD in Paris to coincide with the release of the Organisation’s annual report on jobs and unemployment.

The debate offered a fascinating insight into the skills shortage at a moment when the issue is being eclipsed by unemployment. But as OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría pointed out, “thinking about skills now is an act of foresight”. If we wait to act until economies recover, it will be too late.

Education and training as an investment in the future will be key. But, as Sharan Burrow, head of the international labour body ITUC, warned, this could be at risk as governments seek to cut back on spending. “If we don’t invest in education, we’ll be having this same debate in 10 years,” she said.

Just days before the release of the OECD’s annual survey of international migration, the panel also discussed whether countries should ease migration for skilled workers. Manpower’s Arkless pointed out that, in many cases, “the people who can fill jobs are in the wrong place with the wrong skills”. So, does it make sense to let them move more freely to the right place? In theory, yes. But in practice, as presenter Nik Gowing pointed out, that can face real political obstacles: “How do you persuade politicians to argue for skilled immigration in a time of unemployment?” he asked his panellists.

To hear what they had to say, tune in this weekend to The World Debate on BBC World at these times.

Useful links

OECD work on employment, on education  and migration

OECD Insights: From Crisis to Recovery

OECD Insights: International Migration

One Response leave one →
  1. jeff w permalink
    July 9, 2010

    There is an important secondary note here that can get overlooked. As companies seek to find only the “perfect” fit for every job, they look over many of the most intelligent, diverse, and well-rounded individuals available for hire. Where corporations used to offer strong training, growth from within, and a sense of mutual dedication, we have seen a new goal of simply moving “human assets” to suit the corporations needs. Allowing a greater “skilled immigration” exacerbates the problem rather than solving it. Even education, while of tremendous importance, can’t become a mere training ground for specialized workers. What we need is a shift in our overall thinking to do better utilize the wide and varied intelligence that exists throughout our human community. Companies are all too quick to claim they can’t find the right fit while the real problem is that they have no real insight into how to utilize the intelligence and skill sets that are already at their fingertips. We need a dynamic shift in how corporations look at their hires and how they utilize their workforce. By giving people the opportunity to succeed, we’ll allow them to do so. If we continue to look “elsewhere” for solutions to our problems, those solutions will continue to be “elsewhere” rather than where they are needed.

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