Covid-19: A silver lining amongst the dread and despair?

By Nazrene Mannie Executive Director, Global Apprenticeship Network.

It a real honour to welcome Nazrene as an Apprenticeship Blog Contributor.

We know that the world has changed significantly since the first case of Covid-19 appeared in each of our countries. And it is clear that we will not return to the world that we knew, but perhaps that isn’t such a bad thing. The global crisis that we seem to be stuck in at the moment has offered the world an opportunity to rethink what “normal” is and in the words of Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), we now have a chance to “Build Back Better”.

Indeed, this chance extends to our education and training systems as well as our approaches to workforce development. Since 2018, The Global Apprenticeship Network (GAN Global) has re-defined its focus to include work-based learning (WBL), with the aim of supporting organisations and individuals in adapting to the evolving world and future of work. The importance of GAN’s strategic focus is amplified by the current disruptions of COVID-19. The need for a private sector led skilling and employment linked initiative that gave rise to GAN’s inception in 2013 have been renewed and strengthened through this crisis.

Now, more than ever, we see the necessity of agile workforces with flexible skills that can respond to changes in the nature of work, as well as the need for an urgent response to the disruptive effects on youth employment opportunities. GAN’s value add is demonstrated during the current times – a unique organisation that convenes public and private sector partners to drive evidence-based action to respond to the challenges and opportunities that the changing times present.

It is clear that the enabling environment that we need to set-up to take the world through Covid-19 and beyond requires collaboration, an openness to learning (even amongst business leaders and policy makers) as well as the recognition that the current systems need to be updated to respond to rapidly changing nature of work as well as the labour market as a whole. There is a clear need for an agile, flexible workforce that is able to transition through turbulent times whilst still ensuring access to decent work opportunities, stable income and ongoing upskilling and reskilling.

The work of the GAN and our partners is proving extremely important at this time and we have noted the need to focus on digital skilling as well as digital skilling policy development as one of the key levers to support skills development and work-based learning at a time when it is difficult for people to be physically present in a classroom. During this period, GAN Global has led with a webinar series focusing on Solutions for Covid-19, noting that a policy approach as well as responsive programme of action is needed to across the world in order to respond to the labour market and education impact. Several thought pieces were published post these webinars highlighting the range of innovations and best practices emerging from government, business, social partners as well as development agencies (https://www.gan-global.org/thought-pieces).

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