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9 September 2017

Mismatch of talent and job market demand at the centre of debate at WorldSkills Conference 2017

Why global unemployment remains persistently high, when so many roles are left unfilled, will be the subject of a topical session to be held at the world’s greatest skills competition in October.

At WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017 - to be held in the UAE capital 14-19 October - the International Labour Organization (ILO) – a Conference Coalition Partner of WorldSkills International – will host a session on “Jobs and Skills Mismatch”. 

The moderated panel discussion will examine the impact of skills mismatch on labour markets - tackling the role of low quality education, demographic change, rapid technological development, new sources of job creation, newly created forms of work organisation, as well as an examination of policy gaps.

Paul Comyn, Senior Vocational Skills and Development Specialist in the ILO’s Skills branch, said the advent of the fourth industrial revolution mean there must be worldwide changes to prepare for dramatic changes to the way that we learn, live, and work.

"The connectivity of cyber-physical systems is transforming the needs of society and employers — and breaking down the limits of national borders,” he said. "There is a danger that the demand for new skills, to match future industries, may outpace the provision of appropriate training and education. So how should the VET sector respond to the continuous developments of emerging technologies? How should we promote international cooperation? And, what will be the face of skills in an era without borders?”

Mr Comyn will be moderating the panel discussion while speakers will include Seamus McGuinness, Professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute in Ireland, Anna Byhovskaya, representing The Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) in France, Mannie Nazrene, of Business Unity South Africa, Sunita Sanghi of the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), and Olga Strietska-Ilina, Skills and Employability Specialist at ILO.

"Many countries report a persistent gap between the skills required by the labour market and those offered by the workforce,” said Mr Comyn. "Skills mismatch can be driven by many factors including low quality education and training systems, poor use of skills in the workplace, demographic change, rapid technological development, new sources of job creation and different forms of work organization. The outcome can negatively affect labour market outcomes, worker productivity, enterprise competitiveness and economic growth.”

Mr Comyn said a major focus of the session will look at defining, measuring, and understanding skills mismatch, as well as examining the relationship between the different types of skills mismatch and patterns of job creation and destruction in different country contexts. 

"This will allow us to then consider the different combinations of employment and skills policies that will more effectively counter the different types of mismatch in developed and developing countries,” he said. “Skill gaps amongst existing workers and skills shortages faced by firms who find it hard to fill, are the forms of skills mismatch that probably have the greatest labour market impact. 

"When existing employees do not have the skills to do the work they are required to, or not able to take on new tasks, enterprise growth, and development suffers. When employers don't take advantage of the skills that their employees have and don't think strategically about how those skills can be harnessed to support product and market innovation, enterprise growth and development suffers again. These issues are of particular significance to the informal economy."

Other topics that will be at the centre for debate and discussion at the WorldSkills Conference 2017, under the theme of 'Skills strategies for a globalised world', will include the globalization of skills and careers in an increasingly digitized world; labour force mobility and the constraints of existing qualifications; skills development in cities, and combatting gender inequality in skills.

 The 44th edition of the biennial WorldSkills Competition - to be held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) from 14-19 October - is taking place in the Middle East and North Africa region for the first time. For more information and to register for WorldSkills Conference 2017 visit