Unemployment is up and then down, job vacancies are soaring, and an economic crisis is looming around the world.
Those working in the employment services and skills sectors have their work cut out for them in 2023, including leaders from Palladium programs like the Restart Scheme, Skills for Prosperity, and the Challenge Fund for Youth Employment. Here are the trends these experts are predicting over the next 12 months in their field.
Green Jobs and the Pathway to Net Zero
The climate crisis is always top of mind, and with it, the need for green jobs. As global economies shift towards renewable energies and meeting net zero commitments, so too must the jobs that will support the transition. For Joost Verwilghen, Team Leader of Challenge Fund for Youth Employment, green jobs offer an opportunity for and a solution to the youth employment challenge, especially in Africa. “The way we live and work is rapidly changing,” he says. “At the same time, challenges such as climate change, poverty, and inequality are accelerating the need to rethink the world of work.”
“The transition to a green economy requires investments in renewable energy and more sustainable production processes, but that requires not only large-scale investments and capital allocation, but labour, and green jobs are essential to making the transition work.”
According to Verwilghen, the perception amongst young people is that advanced technical or scientific skill sets are needed to work in the green economy. “Our research, however, shows that general soft skills and skills related to business management and digital literacy are just as, or even more important,” he explains.
Becky Brocklehurst, Restart Team Leader, adds that equipping people to meet the needs of the green economy will be critical for those in the skills sector.
“We’re going to be looking closely at what the skills are for a net zero economy and how we can help construct the pathway for people to work within the green sector,” she describes. “But that isn’t just a conversation with job seekers; this transition is whole of economy, so the shift too must also be whole of society, and we’ll need to educate the educators and work closely with employers to understand exactly the skills they will need from their future employees,” Brocklehurst explains.
Supporting Informal to Formal
Tracy Ferrier, Team Leader of Skills for Prosperity (which works in nine countries forming connections with the UK) notes that in South Africa there are more young people working in the informal and gig economy than before the COVID-19 pandemic. “More and more people are getting quite creative, creating their own jobs, and finding different ways to make a living,” she explains. “And while that works for many and provides flexibility to meet their needs, there’s not much stability and it may not be right for everyone.”
In the face of a recession, stability will be critical for most people in the labour market. “There is going to be a growing need to support young people to move from the informal to the formal economy, by recognising the transferrable skills that they have to help them into a more formal job,” says Ferrier.
She admits that it’s a learning journey for everyone involved, and that her team is thinking actively about how to address the challenges around ease of access to training and employment.
“Barriers add up,” she explains, “whether it’s because people don’t have transportation and need to work or train close to where they live, or they have caring responsibilities and need to work from home, or perhaps have connectivity issues. We need to provide training and transition support into employment that takes these things into account by, for example, making it more flexible or more in line with how young people are accessing information already.”
Mental Health and Retention
“Employers want retention,” says Brocklehurst. “They want someone to come into a job and stick.” But as she explains, it seems to be harder and harder to find people willing to commit to a job long term. “It’s an employees’ market in the UK at the moment and people are jumping around from job to job simply because they have options.” But in the long term, doing so isn’t good for employers or employees.
She notes that there’s not one clear solution, but there are a few things employers can do to mitigate this trend. “There should be an understanding that the key to retaining employees is providing a lot more tailored support and roles for their people.” And part of that, she notes, is mental health. “It’s a topic that’s far more discussed, which is positive, but it’s not something employers can ignore.”
Brocklehurst says that it’s something that’s top of mind for her team as well, and that they’re receiving training to understand how mental health can impact someone on the job market – especially someone who’s been unemployed long term. “We’re a lot more aware of it and I’ve seen that employers are open to accommodating in their hiring, which feeds directly into retention and employers are recognising that they need to be a lot better at active listening and understanding what that would look like,” she describes.
Stability, retention, and skills for a changing economy are on the horizon for 2023. It’s reflective of the world at large as many countries face down recessions, as more people are paying attention to mental health, and as governments and the private sector alike are preparing for what a transition to a more sustainable future will look like. “Where industry sectors are transitioning towards becoming greener, it will be critical for training providers to look at how they prepare trainees for the new jobs and opportunities that will come in the future,” Ferrier concludes.
Partnerships will be key – employment services and training organisations have a responsibility to work closely with industry to understand the labour market and its needs. At the heart of it all is the opportunity to meet the needs of individuals looking for stable, secure, and sustainable employment.
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