Skilling Up For 2030: A View From Asia

Globally, the way we work is changing. With 70% of jobs facing uncertainty, it will be employees with a mix of technical and soft skills that succeed. And we don’t need to look too far into the future to see that—it’s already happening across Asia. At Pearson’s conference on “The Future of Learning” held in Da Nang, Vietnam in February specially invited guests and senior Pearson staff discussed global trends and how they are impacting Vietnam and the region.

First The Good News

A recent report from Pearson and Nesta, in collaboration with Oxford Martin School, titled “The Future of Skills: Employment in 2030”, is encouraging the current—and future—workforce to “stop agonising and take action to skill up for the jobs of the future.” The result of a nuanced exploration of future employment trends, it suggests that while some jobs might become even more highly-prized in the future up to 70% could face uncertainty.

“First the good news—robots aren’t taking our jobs, but they are changing the way we work. Occupations like those in the education, healthcare, and the wider public sector may even see a rise in demand. For those in jobs outside those professions workers can boost their prospects by investing in developing the right skills,” Rod Bristow, Pearson’s President of UK and Core Markets explains.

Curriculum Changes That Support Innovation

In Southeast Asia, governments are already looking to use curriculum to support the development of these kinds of skills. In Vietnam, the revised national curriculum, now due to be implemented in 2019, contains competencies such as self-control and self-learning, critical thinking and problem-solving, and collaboration and communication.

“Things in this part of the world move very fast,” Ms. Nguyen Phuong Lan, the Chairwoman for EMG, one of Vietnam’s first private education companies, warns, “You can expect a lot of changes.” EMG was founded in Hanoi, in 2005, and the company has since expanded with offices now in Ho Chi Minh City. They have been perfectly positioned to see the changes that have been happening in Vietnam. “Global thinking and practice definitely applies to Vietnam. And there’s a lot of positivity going on in the way the government is looking to develop learners’ profiles in light of the demands of the 21st century,” she continues. “Students here have no choice but to grab the future [by developing] the skill to learn, unlearn and relearn. I think those are the most critical skills we can give to our young learners, and the changes to the curriculum should support that,” she adds.

The Millennial Generation’s Impact On The Workplace

It’s not just educators who are seeing signs of change. Employers in Vietnam are registering the impact the millennial generation is having in the professional sphere. “This generation, I feel, is more confident and adaptable in handling new situations and solving problems,” a senior representative for Vietnam Airlines’ Cabin Crew Division says. But he feels the changes aren’t all positive. “Work-readiness skills have developed considerably. Sometimes, however, this generation complete tasks quickly but with less accuracy,” he adds. “And when they feel they have enough experience they will change to another job. This is a challenge among companies in Vietnam today, and within my company too.”

Other companies are reaping the benefits of engaging in forward-thinking education programmes to train and retain their future workforce. Mr. Vu Hai Long, Director of FPT’s Greenwich Collaboration College, part of the FPT Corporation, the largest technology company in Vietnam, remembers: “Fifteen years ago, FPT Software faced genuine difficulty finding the right people—there was a real skills shortage. We decided to invest in education primarily to help support our own business, but our focus on learning has meant young Vietnamese have been able to achieve success here while also entering the international job market.”

“Embrace The Changes Happening Around Us”

“It’s our responsibility to embrace the changes that are happening around us and not be passengers on the ride,” Alan Malcolm, Pearson’s Head of Asia, says about his responsibility to support the changing landscape with digitally-driven education solutions. “We need to continue to deliver on our promise to help people to grow in this changing environment. It’s about balancing this digital transformation with what we already have as educators getting data and as much as we can from technology, rather than looking at it as something that is going to replace the [effective] teaching practices and the education that’s going on now,” he continues.

“Learning is such a personal thing, but it can also be incredibly social. It is complex, and there are contradictions, but we have to keep asking: How can we help people learn today? And how can we help them to continue to learn in the future? We are challenging ourselves, learners, and educators to think about that.” David Barnett, Pearson’s Managing Director for Asia Pacific, concludes about the changing education landscape in this region.