There’s no denying it: our society and our work are becoming more and more digital. The Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated this trend, unveiling two key points:


  • Not all individuals master the necessary technological skills to evolve in a digital society
  • The progress towards a digital society is so fast that even those individuals who do master the technology must continuously update their skills.


In order to survive in today’s fast-paced digital environment, the 2021 OECD Skills Outlook concluded, workers need to continuously learn and update their skills. The solution? A lifelong learning mindset from individuals, organizations, and governments.


The 2021 report emphasizes the importance of lifelong learning, and how countries can best support this transition to make sure no one is left behind. Here are our key insights from the 2021 OECD Skills Outlook.



Why Is Lifelong Learning Important?



Lifelong learning is not just important to adapt to the changing labour market. It also helps workers become more resilient to shocks in their jobs and the labour market, according to the OECD report.


More importantly, lifelong learning is crucial to help workers navigate through the green transition and the digital transition that is transforming entire industries. Moving toward a greener economy requires a range of new skills, investments and technologies to transform these challenges into growth opportunities.


But despite recognising the need to reskill and up-skill workers throughout their lifetime, the OECD report points out that not all individuals have the same ability and capacity to do so. The report suggests that “positive learning attitude are associated with higher proficiency in mathematics, reading and sciences.” Highly skilled individuals are more prone to adopting a lifelong learning mindset, the report found.


Statistically, 4 out of 10 highly educated adults do not participate in formal or non-formal learning. For adults with lower levels of education, that number reaches 8 out of 10. Furthermore, socio-economically disadvantage children, or children from immigrant background, are less likely to proactively update their skills on a regular basis.



Lifelong Learning Should Not Be a Privilege



When it comes to lifelong learning, there are clear social inequalities. Lifelong learning should not be a privilege given to a select few, Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, said in launch webinar organised by the OECD.


The ageing of the population and the demographic imbalance makes lifelong learning even more important, as society needs to ensure that as many workers as possible remain employable on the labour market as long as possible, as successors will become scarce. Otherwise, we might lose valuable workers who leave the workforce because they see their skillset is outdated.


Policies should aim to plant the idea early on that people should skill and reskill themselves to help the digital transition. To achieve this, the support of parents and schools is crucial to equip children with strong skills and learning attitude. Schools and teachers also play an important role and they should foster and create stronger connection between the classes and the labour market.


Promoting work readiness programs could also help reduce the number of people who leave school, and the number of people who will become NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training). These programs would help newly graduated workers to understand how fast the workplace is changing, suggests the report.


Patrizio Bianchi, Italian Minister of Education, said during the launch webinar organised by the OECD that schools are no longer fit for purpose and need reinventing. There is a ‘century divide’ occurring in school, as the Italian minister calls it, where students born in the 21st century go to schools that are the continuation of the previous century. We are experiencing an anthropological change, Bianchi said, with new technologies disrupting the way we learn and interact -- and schools needs to adapt.



How Do We Incentivize People to Engage in Lifelong Learning?



The conversation around upskilling and reskilling doesn’t just involve the younger generation. Adults, too, need to engage in lifelong learning -- and the data from the OECD suggests this is not the case yet.


In fact, 6 in 10 adults surveyed by the OECD did not participate in any form of adult learning in the last 12 months. Of those 6out of 10, five of them reported that, not only did they not participate in any form of learning, but that they aren’t even willing to.


The result? There’s a clear need to incentivize learners to engage in lifelong learning across all ages.


Here’s what the OECD recommends:


  • Employers should be supported in providing effective lifelong learning to their employees, and the focus should be put on the skills that are highly in demand, such as transversal skills (e.g. communication, teamwork, leadership etc.).
  • Educational guidance, career guidance, and orientation programmes should be put in place to provide information on the different skills required for different occupation.
  • Partnerships between actors should be promoted to foster lifelong learning, as "creating synergies across sectors can ensure that individuals can navigate smoothly the transition between forms of learning and learning at different stages.”
  • Technologies are seen as an enabler in the lifelong learning process, and they should be harnessed, not only to create the willingness to learn, but also to measure the progresses, the inequalities and the gaps.To be inclusive, the policy design should consider individual's various learning objectives as well.



Doing Our Part


Lifelong learning is a crucial part of the future of work, it’s a matter of democracy and it should be accessible to all, Bianchi said during the OECD webinar. We need to expand the number of people who have access to lifelong learning and include members of society that may be a priori marginalized. Last year, The Adecco Group CEO Alain Dehaze announced a new way to tackle this skills gap: a new pledge to upskill and reskill 5 million people by 2030 to address the widening global skills gap.


In addition, recognising the significance for our colleagues to have the right skills and capabilities to serve our clients in new ways, our TAG University (TAG U) prioritises a robust learning eco-system that sets TAG colleagues on a path for continuous growth. The Adecco Group University will bring together the best of the Group’s 360 offerings, as well as external experts to create dedicated curriculums for all colleagues across functions and hierarchies. With a mindset of lifelong learning, we are able to face uncertainty.