Global trends and local challenges in matching skills to the changing job market were examined at a joint Cedefop – UNESCO conference at the UNESCO headquarters, in Paris on 20 and 21 October.

More than 125 participants, policy-makers, stakeholders and experts from around the world took part in the event, which promoted international collaboration and discussed approaches to addressing local labour market challenges, emphasising a need for dialogue between education and training across different regions of the world and for a platform to share best practices in anticipating and matching skills in a changing labour market.

Opening the conference, the Director of the Division for Policies and Lifelong Learning Systems at UNESCO David Atchoarena welcomed the participants from more than 50 countries, emphasised the importance of an international cooperation and spoke about the significance of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in the 2030 sustainable development agenda in the lifelong learning context.

‘Youth and adults need better skills to fully participate in their societies and economies. Employers in all sectors are looking for skilled employees who are continually learning. Governments increasingly consider TVET as a key policy instrument to promote employment, inclusion and lifelong learning. The stakes are especially high for young people. Their transition from schools to the world of work raises challenges for all countries,’ he said. 

Short ‘shelf life’ of modern skills

Cedefop Deputy Director Mara Brugia spoke passionately about the short life of skills today compared to the past, about how each potential talent needs to be developed and of the necessity to ease mobility between regions.

‘Qualifications frameworks based on learning outcomes together with policies to validate the skills people have acquired at work or elsewhere, may indeed help support talent and skills mobility. These frameworks can also help to make qualifications more relevant to labour market and learner needs. They could also become the new global skills currency. The joint work of UNESCO, the European Training Foundation and Cedefop on qualifications frameworks beyond Europe could support this process.’

Keynote speaker Saadia Zahidi, Head of Employment and Gender Initiatives at the World Economic Forum, presented outcomes of recent research by the Forum and spoke about how the digital revolution is fundamentally changing the world of work.

‘We’re at the beginning of the fourth industrial revolution, so we have an opportunity to shape it. We need to create a new narrative to be able to shape it, because stories are the way we create common purpose that links people across sectors, cultures, industries and more. It therefore needs to be a powerful, compelling, common and positive narrative,’ she said.

Around 25 speakers and panellists shared best practices to tackle global challenges for matching skill demand and supply, facing unemployment and discussing quality assurance of qualifications in a rapidly changing labour market.

Conference sessions covered, among others, digitisation of economies and a need for new skills in the digital age, skills and inequality across genders, generations and communities and how skills policies are necessary to improve quality and reduce these inequalities.