December 22, 2020

Why governments should not overlook adult education any more

In the last weeks of 2020, we are no longer strangers to the term “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. As the World Economic Forum describes it, “We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another.” However, it is in this last month of 2020 that we realise we are not at the edge of it anymore: we have entered a new phase. 

Taking stock of this past year, marked by a global pandemic unlike any seen in modern times, it is clear that technology has come to largely shape our lives. From how we work from home, to how we communicate with our loved ones, to how we fight this pandemic and how we learn. It is opening opportunities, defying the established – but it is also bringing the disruption typical of a major revolution.

The increased digitalisation of our economies is leaving millions unprepared

As businesses and organisations become more reliable on technologies forced by the need of it in times of social distance, many have come to realise that technology is more suited to perform certain tasks or aid on certain operations. This has a knock-on effect on our workforces and economies. Many of the people who have been let go during the coronavirus crisis have now found themselves unavailable to return to work because technology is cutting for good the roles they once had and their skills had fallen short of the needs of businesses in the digital era. This translate into massive unemployment and an urgent need to upskill and reskill millions of people in a very short period of time. 

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has not caused this but rather accelerated the already existing trend towards digitalisation, exacerbating a skill gap that was already widening. However, it certainly has driven the focus to a major concern: economies across the globe need to upskill and reskill millions of people quickly.

Here are some statistics for concern

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs 2020 Report:

  • 50% of all employees will need reskilling in the next 5 years
  • For those workers set to remain in their roles, the share of core skills that will change in the next five years is 40%
  • Currently, only 21% of businesses report being able to make use of public funds to support their employees through reskilling and upskilling
  • By 2025, the time spent on current tasks at work by humans and machines will be equal

How can we upskill people when we count them by the millions? 

Adult education should be part of the government agenda

To date, adult education has largely been buried deep down in the governments’ agenda, leaving the millions of working adults around the world responsible for guiding their own personal and professional development, or depending on their employers to provide them with it.

However, when the need to upskill is no longer a personal or even organisational need, but rather a necessity for the overall health of the economy, what role should governments play in ensuring adult professionals receive the resources to upskill and reskill?

AT CFTE, we believe adult education, retraining, upskilling and reskilling should be at the centre of the conversation. Our adaptability as societies to the digital era depends on it. Fortunately, we have seen many governments pledging bigger portions of their budgets to this cause in the aftermath of the burst of the global pandemic, but how those budgets should be spent and if they are enough is still a question to answer.

With all of this in mind, CFTE is currently working on an academic and industry paper concerning the role of the government in education, where professionals from diverse backgrounds are sharing their views on this question.

What role do you think the government should play in education with regards to the upskilling urgency?

Download our brief if you’d like to know more about this paper or wish to contribute to it.


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Read our past publications on the reskilling urgency: