The world of work has been changing for some time.  

Industry 4.0 was already changing the shape of industries and jobs before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has accelerated existing trends and created a greater sense of urgency for transformation in the skills system. Over the past year, digital technology has taken hold and its use in work and education has leapt forward.   

Changes in the economy, labour market and society have been uneven. The fourth industrial revolution has creating a much sharper division between good and fulfilling work, versus more precarious roles. There are also issues around equitable access and the distribution of work, with younger people and those in lower-skilled jobs being disproportionally affected. Meanwhile the pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing inequality in the labour market, including for women and disabled people.  

Change is a certainty, but progress is not.        

Despite the challenges that have arisen in the economy and labour market, there are also opportunities. It has been said that the Covid-19 recovery window offers a rare moment to transform economies and accelerate the green transition. The transition to net zero by 2045 will include dramatic shifts in a wider economic vision, business models, technology, and behavioural change for both individuals and organisations.    

By 2025, 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines, while 97 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms.

WEF, 2020

As industries shift, grow and decline, technology-driven business models continue to evolve, and jobs change as a result, it is vital that the rate of skills development and re-skilling keeps pace. There’s an urgent need to shift mindsets in our approach to jobs, careers, and work.  

In a complex world, we’ll all need to be learning for life.   

We need to ensure all of Scotland’s people can plot their course through the future, by equipping them with the skills to navigate the ever-changing world of work, and the ability to develop new skills to remain productive in work.  

By 2025, 44% of the skills that employees need to perform their roles will change and 50% of all employees will need reskilling.

WEF, 2020

Historically there has been a lag between the pace of technological advancements and the pace of response from education. There is a period of pain in the economy and labour market as technology pushes ahead but education, work structures and skills development struggle to respond.   

Many elements of our current skills system were designed in a more industrial age, not for the dynamic, fast-changing world we live in now.  Increasingly, industry has demand for workers who can continuously reskill and upskill to stay ahead and help them compete in difficult markets. This includes increasing demand for the critical meta-skills and adaptive expertise which are required across every occupational area.     

The crux is that, for many, the future of work has already arrived; bringing with it an increased urgency to keep up with the speed of change, manage different ways of working, and continually build and refresh skills and capabilities.   

As companies accelerate their automation plans and many jobs continue to be remote, employees across every sector will need to acquire new skills that enable them to think and work in different ways. The future isn’t a fixed destination. We need to plan for dynamic rather than static tomorrows.

PWC, 2021

To keep pace with the trajectory of change, we need a skills system that is agile and responsive in this dynamic environment. It is now critical to re-think the way our skills system operates, and how it aligns with, and responds to, the accelerating trends of change in work.     

As we look to develop our Strategic Plan for 2022-25, we are keen to hear from our customers, partners and stakeholders, on how we can better understand and respond to the challenges we all face. 

There is an Open Call to individuals and organisations to contribute to our new Strategic Plan. Have your say.