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How Can We Reinvent Ourselves?

With rapid digitalisation, the need to address the skills gaps is more urgent than ever. For policymakers, this is not only an issue of addressing what the economy needs in order to grow, but also how to close the gap between those whose skills are in great demand and those whose jobs will vanish with automation and digitalisation

A skills mismatch is probably one of the most quoted syntagms among policymakers, educators, HR companies and experts worldwide. Serbia is one of those countries where “labour shortages, combined with skills mismatches, could significantly impair the competitiveness of the economy”, as stated on the website of the World Bank in Serbia.

The gap between education and market demand was evident long before Covid-19, but the pandemic accelerated the need for new workforce skills dramatically. Policymakers, educators, parents and children suddenly found themselves in a world of work that was even stranger and harder to understand than before. As we read in this edition, the Serbian Ministry of Education Science and Technological Development, as well as the head of the most prestigious university, believe that they have good understanding of what is needed and what has been done.

On the other side, companies are themselves developing their own training and retraining programmes to fill the knowledge gaps present among their employees. In this area, remote work has placed new demands on employees who, in many instances, discovered that they lack a number of the skills needed to help them perform their tasks and live up to the business priorities set by their companies. In a nutshell, from nursery school kids to senior employees, everybody is in a position to reinvent themselves.

It is difficult to comprehend which skills would be future-ready. It is challenging to write strategies for a time that’s ten or twenty years ahead. As we have already witnessed, today it is not only classical knowledge or IT skills that are in high demand, but also some skills that were unheard of 20 years ago, such as empathy and adaptabilit

It always was difficult to comprehend which skills would be future-ready. It is challenge to write strategies for a time that’s ten or twenty years ahead. Along with classical knowledge or IT skills, today’s demands are for social and emotional skills like empathy, leadership qualities and adaptability.

Lifelong learning is now increasingly seen as skills building. According to McKinsey, skill building is more prevalent than it was prior to the pandemic, with 69 per cent of organisations engaging in more skill building now than they did before the Covid-19 crisis.

With rapid digitalisation, the need to address skills gaps is more urgent than ever, and is today considered a multi-time investment. For policymakers, it is not only a matter of addressing what the economy needs in order to grow, but also how the society can close the gap between those who possess skills that will be easily replaced by automation or artificial intelligence and prepare them for tasks in which humans make a difference.

In summary, there are many dilemmas before us. What is the right balance between modernising existing education structures and inventing something completely different? How can we reconcile new demands of the economy with existing patterns of knowledge gaining? How can we foster innovation while retaining fundamentals? How can we give companies a say while preserving the autonomy of universities? How can we ensure that no one is left behind? For better or worse, our decisions will affect individuals, businesses and societies.

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