Education is rightly seen as a central pillar to drive the digital transformation. But within this broad field, what should we focus on in Switzerland? Here are three key points we want to shed light on: Future skills, the importance of a growing and diverse workforce and new learning paths for professional education. But let’s start with the question that keeps as busy these days:

Is Switzerland future-ready?

Looking into the future through a lense of opportunities, we see digital transformation becoming a meaningful process, going beyond the digitisation of analogue processes towards a fundamental transformation that allows us to overcome critical challenges and problems. But this ‘future’ is not a given one: it will depend on how we  shape it. In order to proactively co-create the digital world, we need to invest in the digital literacy of our society and the education of the next generation to create empowered citizens in a digital age. Are we today well equipped for this? In the IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking 2021, Switzerland defended a strong position in 6th place, however, we should critically analyse these numbers and current trends. From an education perspective, we’re facing major challenges: not all digital competences are equally strong among the Swiss population and there are significant gaps between schools in terms of their digital culture, knowledge and processes. Secondly, we will see a dramatic growth in the need for a qualified workforce that cannot be met without a fundamental intervention of all stakeholders. And thirdly already today more than half of the Swiss workforce have a significant need for retraining. 

Let’s deep dive into three pillars of action that will impact the following:

1. Skills for the future; or does the future lie in the skills?

A double yes here. But let us not restrict the discussion on skills to digital competences. It’s important to look at comprehensive concepts of skills needed for the future. According to a report by McKinsey, the need for manual and physical skills, as well as basic cognitive ones, will decline, but demand for technological, social, emotional, and higher cognitive skills will grow. We would like to see the discussion on digital skills as part of the broader discussion on skills in the digital age. For example, while most of us will not be data scientists, many jobs will need some data literacy. Therefore a digital mindset and certain skills will be increasingly relevant and will impact the employability. 

Understanding the importance of a skill-based Education and a future-oriented development of our skill sets is what led us to collaborate withPro Juventute and showcase 12 role STEM models.

Let them inspire you and the next generation…

2. All we need are people

Yes, “digital” does not always sound like it, but for the transformation we are in, we urgently need the hands and minds of well qualified professionals. We will see a growing demand for ICT professionals in Switzerland. In this sector alone, we’re expecting a skill shortage of 35,000 specialists by 2028 and many traditionally less digital professions will require new skill sets. The in-depth study produced by the Institute for Economic Studies (IWSB) shows the concerning shortage of skilled workers and highlights that according to current forecasts the future demand for ICT specialists cannot be met either by immigration or by the Swiss education system. 

The skill shortage also can not and should not be filled by a narrow group of people: diversity is key. However, let us challenge the take on diversity as a narrative of potential workforce and productivity alone. A diverse workforce composes a cornerstone for creating an inclusive digitalisation and equal participation in the digital world, allowing us to overcome biases and barriers. Therefore it’s imperative to challenge stereotypes of more technical professions and break the deep rooted gender bias. With only 11.43%, there are not enough women in STEM and this must be a priority. Overcoming gender bias must start at an early age at home and in schools and continue at the workplace. 

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3. Many roads lead to digital Switzerland

Continuing education is well established in Switzerland, but the question is “who is participating?”. Due to the trend that highly qualified people are more active in lifelong learning than less qualified, the gaps in our society are growing.  

In order to solve the skill shortage, we must bring flexibility into the education structures and increase the opportunities and access for career changes.

And on a systemic level, we need to increase investment in apprenticeships, and establish a robust strategy for career changers in Switzerland. 

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Final sentence:

Switzerland is already well positioned in many areas that are central for the digital economy, however this transformation is moving rapidly while education and lifelong learning systems need long response times to change, a time we can not effort. 

Sense of urgency….