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Digitalisation, SDGs and the future of work: addressing tomorrow's skills and jobs challenges

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On the 15th of October EUD participated at the event entitled Digitalisation, SDGs and the future of work: addressing tomorrow's skills and jobs challenges. This was a side event related to Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and part of the European Vocational Skills Week 2019.

The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Kristina Dervojeda, leader of PwC Innovation Research Centre at PwC Netherlands. The discussion was opened by Kasia Jurczak, Member of Cabinet of Marianne Thyssen, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility. Mrs Jurczak highlighted that we should be cautiously optimistic about the digitalisation in the labour market. It may create challenges but if the population is well prepared it can create many opportunities. The preparation for digitalisation should include the up-skilling of the people in the labour market, creating stronger links between education and the employers and adjusting social protection systems. Persons in the labour market will need to have both human specific skills such as creativity and social skills as well as digital skills. It was highlighted that the European Commission will focus on the up-skilling of the labour force in the future.

Mark Keese, Head of Skills and Employability Division at the OECD emphasised that digitalisation, automation, intense globalisation, ageing and climate change are already making an impact to the labour market. While realising the Sustainable Development Goals it is needed to take into account how these challenges redefine what skills are needed for the labour market. Due to these challenges, many people will need to transit from one job to another or their role in their current job can change. Therefore, their skills need to be up to date in order for the workers to remain relevant and adjust to the labour market needs. Lifelong learning should be encouraged, and all countries should focus on the adult learning systems. Technological, digital as well as social skills are essential for the labour market of the near future. 

All speakers agreed that to shift mentalities, we need everyone to be on board, and that this must be a collective effort. We all have to think about how to develop the professional skills needed in this changing world, and go beyond technical knowledge.

Counsellor for Employment, Finnish Permanent Representation to the EU Riikka-Maria Turkia, gave concluding remarks. Mrs Turkia emphasised that when promoting lifelong learning it is particularly important to consider most disadvantaged groups such as persons with disabilities and not to leave anyone behind.

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