Jobs or Skills – the Real Election Debate
The amount of jobs created, lack of quality jobs or the promise of new jobs in the next five years appears to be a constant theme across the election debate. One politician said the government needs to create secure, well paid jobs rather than low paid jobs undertaken by so many people across Ireland.
Whatever your political persuasion, there are a number of things to be put straight before any more promises are made about jobs in this election:
- The amount of low paid jobs will continue to grow because many service industries require part time, flexible staff to meet their customer changing needs. This isn’t going to change anytime soon. The only way out of working in this low paid sector is to become more valuable by learning new future work skills in demand.
- No government can promise secure well paid jobs in the future because they don’t exist anymore. Every job is temporary in the new world of work! The future of work is now increased project work, contracted employment and an increase in self-employment.
- Jobs were invented for the industrial era (e.g. Henry Ford car manufacturing). We have long left this era of production lines. Machines have replaced the majority of this kind of work and in the next five years will replace much office and administration jobs too.
- No government can promise 200,000 jobs in the next five years; they can target it as a goal, but with the amount of global job displacement about to happen in the near future it is not straightforward.
- There has been a two tier jobs recovery. Those with the right skills and education got the best jobs and those without didn’t. As individuals, we have to take responsibility to upskill ourselves and stop waiting for the Government to bring back the low skilled and highly paid industrialised jobs.
Governments only have the power to create the conditions for multinational and indigenous businesses to create employment here. Businesses decide what they pay and this will be strongly based on the law of supply and demand.
Highly skilled engineers, scientists, sales and IT professionals will continue to be in demand. These high quality jobs will be taken up by those who are agile and constantly educating and developing themselves throughout their lifetime and not just once by going to college post leaving cert.
The jobs debate is superficial and not understood by politicians. It is easy to say we promise to create ‘X’ number of jobs in the economy in the next five years. It creates sound bytes and headlines for voters John and Mary to believe.
The real debate is the skills debate.
- Do we have the skills in this country to take advantage of the new indigenous start-ups and multinationals coming here or expanding their functions?
- Are our secondary schools still focused on points attainment for college places rather than developing the whole person with the future knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the future?
- Are our universities truly aligned and partnering with industry needs and flexible enough to swiftly develop and deliver “just in time” rather than “just in case” flexible learning for adult learners over 12 months of the year and on weekends?
- Are our third level students exiting college industry-ready with the employability skills to find new work?
- Are our retraining agencies really providing the type of skills and knowledge training necessary to meet the future workforce requirements?
- Are our people currently at work investing in themselves by developing future work skills or waiting for the employers to do it for them?
- Is the government creating a learning environment in this country by providing personal tax breaks to ensure lifetime learning is part of our lifetime journey?
Does Ireland Inc have the right skills to stay investor friendly?
Governments create the environment for industry to flourish. We have a lot going for us in this country; we often are the best at what we do in our chosen fields worldwide. We operate in a global economy where many US multinationals have established their EMEA headquarters here (and we hope the majority stay for many years to come). Inevitably, some of these new technology businesses will fail, move on or close down. That is the nature of globalised commerce. The great thing is these companies have come here in the first place and our people have had the opportunity to learn valuable skills for future employment opportunities. Jobs will come and go but Ireland Inc has now become a source of talented skilled people with a great work ethic. But how do we ensure we continue to have the right talent pool to attract further inward investment? With so much change approaching with the future world of work, how can individuals remain employable?
The politicians appear to be basing their job figures on something over 3% economic growth for the next five years. Who would have predicted two years ago the sterling growth we had last year? So let’s get real, we don’t know if we are going to head back into a global recession due to factors outside our control, like China or oil prices, or if we’ll continue to grow at record levels. This is outside our control.
Why not personal tax breaks to create a Learning economy?
What our Government can control is the right environment and right taxation policies to create a learning economy. But the responsibility for the recovery also lies with us as citizens, we need to stop waiting for promised jobs and take more personal responsibility to change ourselves.
We need to change the election conversation from promising jobs to bridging the skills gap to highly skilled employment. In doing so, we will give everyone an opportunity for future employment, not just quick fix job lotto prediction numbers that win votes.