Education and learning has changed forever due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We’ve seen technology help academic institutions to reopen safely and support students remotely, and provide upskilling opportunities to those whose careers have been upended by the economic crisis. But the pandemic has also exposed digital divides, particularly around access to technology and widening skills gaps. The European Union estimates that more than one in five young people across the EU fail to reach a basic level of digital skills. In this context, it is timely that the EU Commission in September adopted its new Digital Education Action Plan.
Reflecting lessons learned from the public health crisis, between 2021-2027 it aims to make education and training systems “fit for the digital age”. Its two strategic priorities will be to help develop a high-performing digital education ecosystem and enhance digital skills and digital transformation competences across the continent.
As the locations and methods we have long associated with learning continue to transform, cultivating a culture of continuous development will be crucial to the competitiveness and inclusivity of our economies. As it becomes increasingly clear that the improvement of digital literacy, provision of training and reskilling opportunities must be a priority for governments and businesses alike, here are three key questions we need to consider.
Are Young People Prepared to Navigate the Changing World?
Even before the pandemic, the impact of digital transformation on civic spaces and the world of work had resulted in a major disconnect between education systems and the needs of global economies and societies. With good reason, academic institutions and programs have encouraged the building of careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Increasingly, access to relevant technologies and development of digital competences will be essential to delivering high-quality education and training, both for life and work.
As the skills that employers are looking for continue to evolve it is imperative that educators and curriculums keep apace. According to Salesforce research, 74% of business leaders across Europe say that they are prioritising different skills as a result of the pandemic. Just as technical IT skills (57%) and a familiarity with digital workplace tools (43%) are judged to be the most valuable skills in a post-COVID world, human-centric skills such as emotional intelligence (40%) and collaboration (38%) are becoming increasingly important to helping young adults navigate the changing world.
Are Employees Empowered to Succeed in the Digital Economy?
In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the urgency to future-proof and transition careers has required nothing short of a reskilling revolution. According to global Salesforce research, since the onset of the pandemic 40% of the workforce have considered a career change. As the digital economy continues to evolve, businesses don’t just have a responsibility to provide employees opportunities to retrain and transition to the jobs of the future. It’s increasingly within their interest to do so.
Now more than ever, people need access to the technologies and skills necessary to land the jobs of the future. This why at Salesforce we launched Trailhead in 2014, our free online learning platform, to democratise education and provide an equal pathway into the tech industry. Since the onset of the pandemic we’ve seen a 37% increase in registrations to courses – joining over 2.2 million learners gaining technical, business, partner, and soft skills. Delivering in-demand skills and resume-worthy credentials, we’re addressing the skills imperative and equipping people with the tools they need to succeed.
Are We Doing Enough to Close Digital Gaps?
As a society, we need to continually ask ourselves whether we are doing enough to provide everyone with the opportunity to participate. As we reimagine education for a learn-from-anywhere world, for instance, we need to ensure every student can gain the best teaching regardless of circumstance. When it comes to changing careers, everyone deserves the opportunity to reskill. As essential everyday services transition to online, ensuring universal access to anything from health to social care will be the true test of an inclusive digital-first world.
Given the rapid transformations we are seeing, it seems we are all having to learn and upskill to some degree. In the digital economy, for businesses and people alike, a transformative mindset will be crucial to how we live and learn. How we equip young people for the changing world, empower employees with the skills they need, and address widening digital gaps will determine our success both as an economy and society.
About the Author
Adam Spearing is the EMEA Field CTO & SVP Solution Consulting UKI at Salesforce and has been in this role since 2018. Adam is responsible for all aspects of the Salesforce Platform across EMEA. He spends time helping executives understand the power of the Salesforce Platform and how to get the most value from it.
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