Experts Welcome Framework for Developing APEC Skills
March 14, 2018
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APRU Director of Policy and Programs, Christina Schönleber, was quoted in a CIPD article contributing to the conversation about creating workforces fit for the challenge of digitisation and demographic change.

Sharing best practice and harnessing cross-border co-operation will help Pacific Rim countries overcome the challenges of creating workforces fit for the future, experts said – as they endorsed a recent initiative focusing on HR development amid increasing technological change.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Framework on Human Resource Development in the Digital Age was adopted by the 21 APEC member countries at the Asia Pacific Economic Forum, in Vietnam, in May 2017. Its policies are now being rolled out by APEC governments. The framework’s declared aim is to assist member economies provide their local companies with the ability to cope with the HR challenges and opportunities in present and future work.

“This acknowledges the fundamental changes the world of work will be facing and also acknowledges that the Asia Pacific region is incredibly diverse,” said Christina Schönleber, director for policy and programmes at the Association of Pacific Rim Universities, a network of leading universities in the APEC region.

Speaking to People Management, she added: “Through this framework, APEC will be able to harness co-operation across its member economies, while best practice sharing and drawing on the latest expertise and research from scholars across the Asia Pacific region will allow policymakers and industry to gain new knowledge and understanding of the societal and economic impact of these technological developments.”

Schönleber added that HR professionals will then be able to collectively address challenges and capitalise effectively on new opportunities.

Warning that automation could deny poorer economies the opportunities for economic development that have in the past been grasped by countries offering cheaper labour, the framework seeks to put forward an appropriate set of policy directions and measures. These would support economies at risk of ending up on the wrong side of the digital divide, preparing their workforces for the challenges and opportunities in the digitalised and tech-enabled world of work today and beyond.

The framework commits APEC governments to spending money on joint and regional research activities to provide member economies with a good indication of where, when and how digitalisation and new technology will change production processes.

And the policy agreement lays the basis for the development of joint programmes, projects and initiatives to promote cooperation and exchanges of best practice regarding labour market information systems and data management. It will also encourage APEC governments to develop guidance on the role of public and private employment services in addressing the challenges and opportunities caused by globalisation and digitalisation, as well as the way these institutions can be improved through information and communication technologies.

“Advancement in technology has led to a pressing need for human resources development, including research into the implications for the labour market, education, training and reskilling,” the framework states.

“This, coupled with ongoing labour market analyses, will support targeted investment consistent with economic needs. Evidence-based policy is required to ensure that labour market participants are employable and prepared for the challenges and opportunities in the new digital age,” it adds. The proposed timeframe for implementation of the framework is 2017 to 2025, with progress to be reviewed in 2022 by APEC ministers responsible for human resources development.

The International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) employment specialist, Phu Huynh, is also supportive of the framework, stressing that digitisation and automation put jobs across Asian countries at all stages of economic development at risk, making efforts by governments and international organisations to help address the challenges critical.

“Digitisation and workplace automation will impact jobs regardless of the level of economic development, although the risks may vary, with the concerns about digitisation in less developed economies being mostly associated with the initial risk of replacing low-end manufacturing jobs which have been critical for past growth strategies,” Huynh said.

“However, given lower skill and wage levels in these countries, there may be a comparative lag in terms of adopting new technologies and the consequent impacts. And conversely, the advanced economies, where higher wages make technology absorption more economically feasible sooner, also face an initial risk to medium-skill jobs, such as in accounting, office administration and bookkeeping,” he added.

Huynh explained that although efforts by governments and international organisations such as the APEC framework are critical, basic national employment rights still play a role.

“These include better protection for workers during the technology transition and revamping education and training systems to be more responsive to rapidly changing labour markets,” he said.

Similarly, Ian Grundy, head of marketing and communications, Asia Pacific, at The Adecco Group, pointed out that today interconnected factors of digitisation, automation and changing demographics are redefining “where we work, how we work and what is work itself,” and that “what we do every day in our jobs, no matter in what role,” is being redesigned, to a greater or lesser extent.

“These redesigned jobs and roles require new skillsets which means that we need to reskill or upskill and we need to do it fast and at scale,” Grundy said.

“For that to happen, governments, academia, companies and other institutions such as APEC, the UN and the ILO need to work together on multiple fronts including regulatory reforms, encouraging vocational training and updating HR practices,” he said.

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