While unemployment continues to follow an upward curve, a large majority of companies complain of talent shortages, and of having difficulty finding candidates with the right set of skills.
The education systems of many Mediterranean countries are producing many graduates with skills that do not match those demanded by businesses and which are needed in a competitive labour market. We are talking about a generation of graduates without adequate training and skills to contribute productively to the modern-day economy.
To solve this pressing issue, governments, businesses and the education world must join forces to align skills with needs. Businesses can play an important role in the job creation process by properly tapping into their own ecosystems. The academic sector needs to adopt a more practical approach and develop appropriate training programmes, focusing on immediate priorities while driving long-term systematic reforms. Governments also need to change the framework: from a position of command and control to one of communication and convening. A new paradigm is needed and only by working together in a multi-partnership can we hope to achieve meaningful results.
Education is a powerful force that can accelerate economic growth, improve income distribution, facilitate social mobility, and reduce poverty: something that should be high on the political agenda.
The Mediterranean must prepare itself to handle the global battles of innovation, knowledge and sustainability. In the region, the most immediate economic challenge is not diversification, or new tax regimes, but namely the creation of enough productive and sustainable jobs for its youth. At the same time, there is the challenge of equipping ourselves with the mix of talents and skills that will make us more competitive in the digital revolution and the Industry 4.0.
Change is a pre-determined state; we must learn to prepare for it, and we are facing unprecedented changes, some of which bring with them threats of a global magnitude and on scales that can be measured in decades. The scope of the current COVID-19 pandemic, for example, is a wake-up call.
In this context, education becomes an increasingly important resource if change is not to be feared or unexpected, and this raises the question of universal access. The more of the world is well educated, the more likely it is to be able to cope with changes that offer opportunities and challenges.
Schools must provide an education that produces students who take risks without fear of change: innovative, creative, analytical, techno-enthusiastic, ethical and resilient. These are the young future leaders of tomorrow. A good education is as important and vital a provision as having a home, food or healthcare.
Young people are ready to move society and the economy forward, yet without access to quality education and training opportunities, they cannot participate in the 21st century workforce. The passport to winning is to offer them education in the most challenging environments, with the skills and certification they need.
Economic progress is related to training and innovation activities, and there is a correlation between social progress and entrepreneurial activity. Innovation is the path to survival and development, the fuel for constant progress, and the model for the rise of a company or a nation.
The main key to innovation is training. Companies that invest in providing their employees with the right skills are the ones that grow. Governments must do the same, improving skills and encouraging innovation among their employees and in the education system. Governments also need to rebalance spending, as well as invest in the tangible such as infrastructure, and equally in intangibles such as education, research and development.
Simultaneously, within this framework, universities must bridge the gap between the classroom and businesses through practical programmes that develop the skills for business creation, decision-making and risk management.
Harnessing a country’s human potential means having a long-term strategy to cope with a rapidly changing environment and to ensure that the rights of groups and individuals are respected.
It is necessary to define the characteristics of national or regional policies on human capital management for sustainable development, to articulate the commitments and practices of political and economic actors in the fields of education, training and employment, and to take stock in terms of improvements between what can be done and the prospects to be envisaged.
The events of the last few years on both shores of the Mediterranean are setting the direction that governments must take: boosting lifelong and vocational training and creating jobs capable of playing a role in an open and global world. The challenge is to build together a society of knowledge and innovation based on equal opportunities for men and women.
So, without good instruction there is no order of instruction and without good instruction there is no good training and without good training there will be no economic development. Education and training are the key values for the success of any nation. The opposite condemns a country to remain underdeveloped, even if the country has natural resources or wealth.
This article appeared originally in Spanish on the Atalayar website.
Anwar Zibaoui is the General Coordinator of ASCAME and a columnist for various media outlets.