Wanted: A Generation of Global Problem Solvers
One of the key challenges under discussion at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos is “employment, skills and human capital”, with a focus on how to create 470 million new jobs by 2030 as technology is expected to fundamentally disrupt the nature of work itself.
According to the ILO, in 2014 there were more than 201 million people unemployed globally, and almost 74 million young people (aged 15-24) were looking for work - the youth unemployment rate is practically three times higher than the adult rate. Youth unemployment is a common problem across regions, despite the trend of improvement in education.
At the same time, technology and innovation are changing the way we work on a scale never experienced before. Digital transformation is driving radical, incredible change that requires us to rethink skills development, production, design, manufacturing, and, critically, how we manage the massive amount of data being generated from the billions of devices connected to the Internet.
We can also use digitization to help solve some of the world’s most challenging problems: water scarcity, hunger, income inequality, environmental degradation, poverty, migration—and unemployment. The impact of these problems will require global institutions, organizations, enterprises, and individuals to act in new ways. In order for countries to thrive in this new digitized economy, will we have to address not only unemployment but also job creation.
How do we get there? In the age of the Internet of Everything (IoE), information can help predict an asthma attack, and a building can detect and contain a gas leak. Even more astonishing opportunities emerge when people connect: imagine a connected ecosystem that allows for people from all backgrounds to build the skills needed to drive the digitization process, to find jobs, and to bring creative ideas to market, including the added advantage of solving some of our most complex social challenges.
To achieve this vision, we need to create clear pathways to engage this generation and help them to become the new generation of global problem solvers — individuals who innovate as technologists, think as entrepreneurs, and act as social change agents.
Today, many people do not have access to training programs that would enable them to participate in the digital economy. Governments, companies, educational institutions, nonprofits and individuals need to create regional strategies that develop the volume and uniqueness of skills and competencies required for countries to take advantage of digitization. Ultimately, if we can harness the power of this rocketing IoE global phenomenon and align education, curriculum, and learning to the technology job market, while driving entrepreneurship, we can use it to fuel economic growth.
To take advantage of the potential of digitization, the world needs millions of people to fill information and communications technology (ICT) jobs in every country, in almost every field. ICT careers are becoming more complex as a result of the digital revolution, where smarter connections are being made between people, processes, data and things.
To help fill this need, we can build on existing education and training programs for the next wave of skills. We can transform curricula to ensure the transition to digitization and develop courses for emerging technology careers. We can work with employers, educators, industry leaders, and social change makers to co-create curricula, experiences, and business models that set learners on a solid path to employment or job creation.
Creating the jobs of tomorrow
In addition to building the skills needed for the jobs of today and connecting individuals to these jobs, it is imperative to foster entirely new ideas and industries that will create the jobs of tomorrow.
Start-up businesses are estimated to create more than three million jobs on average each year in the U.S. alone - but varying estimates put the failure rate of start-ups somewhere between 50 and 95 percent. Incubator programs increase the likelihood of success by helping good ideas to mature into viable market solutions and accelerating the product or service’s time to market.
Today, according to UBI Global, there are as many as 4,400 university incubator-related programs around the world, on average creating 350 jobs a year. But there are an estimated 22,000 universities, meaning that only 15-20 percent of universities have incubator programs. What would happen if we connected those incubators together in a virtual network to share best practices and collaborate more effectively, and then increased that number by even five percent? It could lead to more than 8 million jobs over a five-year timespan.
Social incubators not only create economic impact but also have impact across sectors, such as healthcare, education, and the environment. As the interest in social innovation increases, there is a greater need to help existing programs improve and build new programs. Cultivating a global incubator network would help people from all backgrounds bring creative ideas to market and launch startups that generate more jobs. This would also align to the growing interest among youth for entrepreneurship.
Imagine the number of jobs that could be created if all socially focused incubator programs improved. Imagine if this incubator network reached new target audiences — individuals who may not have had access to these types of programs previously. There is no telling where the next great idea can arise. By providing individuals with multiple pathways and resources to find work and/or foster ideas that create jobs while simultaneously addressing social challenges, the impact could be exponential while also playing a significant role in addressing the unemployment challenge.
However, no single organization, industry, or government can do it alone. To make a significant and lasting impact, nonprofits, non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations around the world need to work together. We know that if we bring people together, they find innovative solutions. If you add technology to the mix, we can multiply their impact and uncover even greater opportunities. Together, we can launch a new generation of global problem solvers armed with the tools and knowledge they need to change the world.