As the Fourth Industrial Revolution unfolds, companies have begun to harness new and emerging technologies to reach higher levels of efficiency of production and consumption, expand into new markets, and compete for a global consumer base. These changes are causing huge shifts in the existing skill requirements for workers; and the demand for higher cognitive, technological, social and emotional skills has increased as the demand for physical and manual skills declines. In this context, Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) facilitate the creation and deployment of industry upgrade strategies, laying out how to adapt to changes brought upon by technology. What are SSCs and how can they promote successful skills development systems?
A tool to promote demand-driven skills development
Designed to analyze and address skills development within key sectors of the economy, SSCs are independent, employer-led organizations which seek to build a skills system that is driven by employer demand. They bring together companies that are competing, operating and training in the same labor market who have a common interest in collaborating to create a pool of skilled workers.
The importance of SSCs is amplified by the pace of technological and organizational change. These organizations have become pivotal to stimulating employer engagement, bridging the skills gaps and defining current and future skills needs. By having an upgrade strategy, industries can deploy upskilling and reskilling initiatives to empower workers to pursue higher value-added tasks. In countries such as the United Kingdom, SSCs are supported by trailblazer employer groups in charge of developing standards for specific occupations in the industry.
How is the Global Services Sector in Jamaica evolving to target higher-value services?
The Global Services Sector (GSS), is one of the fastest growing and resilient segments of the services export sector worldwide; with digitization and automation being two of the most important trends influencing it. This segment’s share has increased by 331% between 2011 and 2016. The global market for the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry alone is projected to reach US$343.2 billion by 2025.
In Jamaica, the GSS provides over 36,000 jobs. Together with the IDB, this country is strengthening the institutional capacity of the sector to increase investment and exports; aiming to improve its current BPO base while moving towards higher value-added services which will require a pipeline of talent with more advanced skills. Understanding the need for a 360-degree perspective, private sector players drawn from small, medium and larger BPOs, together with local and global Information Technology Organizations (ITOs) and public sector membership organizations, are leading the charge for talent pipeline development and prioritization of GSS in Jamaica with the establishment of the Global Services Skills Board (GSSB).
Jamaica’s GSSB is the first sector skills council of its kind in the Caribbean and a major step for the growth of the GSS in the country. As the sector evolves so does the needs to remain competitive, and the industry expects that the GSSB will make the best decisions in order to drive members up the value chain in a sustainable manner. Using tools such as industry upgrade strategies and career pathway frameworks, the GSSB will amplify the pace of technological and organizational change of the GSS in Jamaica. As expressed by Mr. Simon Perryman, a SSC expert, “the GSSB will provide the single collective voice on skills needs, set technical and professional competency standards, influence the design of relevant training, and improve understanding of the opportunities in the sector to provide good jobs and careers.”
Is the GSSB replicable on other industries and countries?
Interest in the development of SSCs have been gaining momentum in the Caribbean region. Like Jamaica, Bahamas have begun work with the IDB to set up SSCs and develop apprenticeship programmes in its maritime, digital skills partnership and medical services industries. To harness the effects of technological change, companies must retool their corporate structures and approaches to work, and SSCs help them redesign their business processes to better define their current and future skills need. Skills development is a shared responsibility of government, employers and individual workers, with each stakeholder playing a critical role.