The International Organization of Employers (IOE) Leaders’ Summit wrapped up on Tuesday in Geneva, featuring business organization leaders from around the world who addressed key barriers to business sustainability. The summit took place during the International Labor Organization (ILO) Conference, which focused on closing the workforce skills gap and reforming the labor market. USCIB is the U.S. affiliate of the IOE.
Three panel discussions were chaired by new IOE President Daniel Funes de Rioja and moderated by Blaise Matthey, secretary general of the Business Federation of Western Switzerland.
“Our educational system needs to catch up with the advances we’ve made in technology”
USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson delivered remarks during the first panel, titled “Predicting the Unpredictable: Skills for the 21st Century.”
Robinson outlined some of the challenges employers and workers face as a result of rapidly developing technologies – such as the possibility of machines displacing human workers – and made the case for education reforms that will equip the workforce with the skills necessary to thrive in the digital economy.
In order to address the challenges posed by new technologies, Robinson argued that the education system must instill future employees with the character traits necessary to succeed in the new economy: curiosity, enthusiasm, a strategic mindset and the ability to construct systems that leverage vast computational power. Old teaching methods, such as rote memorization and test-taking, will not be as valuable.
Robinson also called for an improved connection between school-based learning and work-based training, with more sensible and coherent apprenticeship and internship programs, and made the case for lifelong learning rather than the front-end-loading of education. Companies must also develop training programs that prepare workers for both current and future jobs.
“We also need governments and the private sector to work together to provide the kind of robust infrastructure needed to access the transformational power of the Internet and other technologies.” Robinson said, and cited the Colombian government’s recent efforts to upgrade citizens’ access to Internet through a broadband rollout program as a good model.
“We need to prepare ourselves as best we can, working together to help determine what people need to learn for the 21st-century workplace. And we need to get started right now,” Robinson concluded.