Governments around the world are grappling with a severe and growing skills shortage, especially for digital skills. Throughout the pandemic, we saw both private and public sector organizations rushing to adopt digital processes and technology. Accelerated by the fact that many workers are retiring out of the workforce, finding digital skills is an urgent priority for governments of all levels. In Canada alone, the Information Communications Technology Council estimates that there are over 200,000 information and communications technology positions to be filled.
What can be done?
While governments consider solutions such as boosting immigration for skilled workers and reskilling their current workforce, there is more that can be done. To stay competitive in this new cultural and economic environment, government organizations need to future-proof their skills pipeline not by filling and plugging gaps, but by putting structures and strategies in place that enable a growing workforce to evolve according to the changing needs of industry, technology and society.
“It is essential to understand geographical needs and design training and credential programs that will engage and bring people into the labour force.”
A global environmental scan reveals several critical factors for the successful development of digital skills strategies. As a starting point, it is essential to understand geographical needs and design training and credential programs that will engage and bring people into the labour force.
Secondly, the strategy also needs a level of intentionality. This is harder to do in a country-wide manner, so it is preferable to operate in a more tactical manner and focus on solving a particular challenge at a local level. By doing this, we are seeing some very encouraging early results in engaging broader communities and expanding the workforce.
Embrace Collaborative Partnerships to Tap into Talent Pools
One area of positive results has come from the increased appetite for collaboration between public sector organizations and their private sector counterparts. These cross-sector partnerships are creating strategies to tap talent pools that are traditionally underrepresented in labour markets. These groups include, but are not limited to, caregivers, immigrants, refugees, persons with disabilities and those from less advantaged or marginalized backgrounds.
“The idea is not to try and be all things to all people, but to focus on excelling in one sector.”
Successes can be seen in the skills hubs popping up across the US and the UK. Focusing on a specific skill that is unique to their locale, these hub communities bring together government, education, NGOs and business leaders to develop a skilled workforce that attracts business opportunities. The idea is not to try and be all things to all people, but to focus on excelling in one sector.
This strategy can also be pursued at the city level: Boston in life sciences, Chicago in analytics, Houston in energy, Washington DC in cybersecurity and New York City in data. It works in a rural setting as well. Oregon and Iowa, for example, are creating expertise in online customer service to provide opportunities for their Indigenous populations and citizens living in remote communities.
We’re also seeing a global trend in rethinking education and certification needs for the modern workforce. Countries such as Germany and Australia are engaging students earlier about career opportunities and designing certifications that that can be attained in a much shorter period. The intention is to bring the workers in when they are younger and continue to train them to keep pace with rapid innovations.
“Governments must also address the hurdles in accessing digital skills.”
Governments must also address the hurdles in accessing digital skills, such as limited awareness of training options and specific skills needed, perceived lack of time, high training costs and low training quality. Tackling these barriers will be critical to unlock more digital skills training and the benefits associated with it.
In the public sector context, an effective skills strategy has the benefit of improving citizen services while also improving socio-economic outcomes by engaging and upskilling traditionally underserved communities, such as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color).
“By engaging more people in the workforce, we can create opportunities for many while future-proofing our workforce.”
There is a huge opportunity to address skills shortages in the public sector across geographies when cross-collaboration, training, upskilling and identifying hidden workforces are implemented. By engaging more people in the workforce, we can create opportunities for many while future-proofing our workforce.
Accenture invests in our own training and learning programs and our global network provides us exposure to best practices developed and refined in communities across the globe. For more, watch our conversation on how to future-proof the public service with skilling here.