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Retraining condition continued NOW demands a national Skills Bridge

Bastiaan Starink Partner, PwC Netherlands 15/05/20

The NOW measure expires at the beginning of June. Minister Koolmees has already hinted that any follow-up measure will be subject to the condition that employees are retrained. In this way they can be successfully guided from job to job and there will not be hundreds of thousands more unemployed. In order to increase the chance of new meaningful and satisfying work for this group, a national Skills Bridge is needed.

The right competencies for the available jobs

Economic activity in some sectors – such as the hospitality industry, the travel world, the retail trade, and aviation – have come to a virtual standstill during the corona crisis, and it won’t stop at just those sectors. The development of robotisation, artificial intelligence, and other technological advances that are already underway will also lead to the loss of other jobs and elements of jobs in the coming years. Furthermore, there are many professions and sectors that continue to face shortages, such as ICT and the public sector (police, defence, the prison service, health care, and education). This creates frictional unemployment, i.e. enough people will be available but they don’t yet have the right skills to fill the available jobs. A national Skills Bridge can offer a solution.

Coordinated approach needed

An important precondition for success is to approach from-work-to-work programmes primarily as economic projects rather than social projects, although their social effects are obviously positive. There first needs to be a financial business case for all parties involved. For an employer that’s making an employee redundant, it’s important to avoid having to pay for expensive outplacement programmes and transition allowances. For an employer looking for a talented new employee, the importance lies in reducing recruitment costs and getting the vacancy filled faster. For the state, a financial interest is involved because successful matching to a new job prevents needing to pay unemployment benefit. And of course the employee benefits from finding new, relevant, and meaningful work. Based on this positive business case, the resources must be made available to coordinate the from-work-to-work programmes and to finance retraining (including paying the employee’s salary during retraining). A central coordinating role is important to ensure that SMEs – the engine of the economy – can also be involved.

Data that recognises talent

Matching people to a new job first of all requires understanding based on data. That means data about who you employ, what work they perform, what training and competencies they have, what the development potential of those competencies is, and where they can perhaps be deployed. I’m also thinking of data about what ambitions people have and what they find enjoyable. That’s something you need to talk about. Luxembourg’s Skills Bridge project is a dynamic system that collects this kind of data and makes it accessible. The project contributes to recognising talent and any further training or retraining programmes needed to find a new job for someone. Both employers and employees are guided in determining the new strategy, the new reality and the corresponding market opportunities, the ambitions and successful retirement of current employees and the hiring of new employees.

Turn necessity into a virtue

Both during and after the corona crisis, there are perhaps more than 100,000 vacancies that may remain open, both in the private sector but all the more so in the public sector. Let’s do our country a favour and work towards a national, well-organised, data-driven and economically inspired from-work-to-work programme that facilitates further training and retraining. If we organize this centrally and do not fragment on a local or sectoral level, we can set up a real National Skills Bridge. It already works in other countries.

Preparing for tomorrow's skills

The ways of working change dramatically. New technologies are changing products and services, expectations and organisations. digitalisation and automation lead to different activities and take over human activities. As a result, organisations are looking for new skills among their employees. The people in organizations in turn demand more flexibility, a different work-life balance, meaningful activities and enough learning opportunities. Is your organisation agile enough to respond to rapidly changing competencies? And how do you facilitate employees in lifelong learning?

More about the future of work

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Bastiaan Starink

Bastiaan Starink

Partner, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)65 375 58 28

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