More countries might have to start pursuing reskilling programs as automation displaces workers and the gap between rich and poor grows, says Denmark’s Minister for Employment.
While many countries see worker reskilling programs as a dubious use of time and money, Peter Hummelgaard, Denmark’s Minister for Employment believes they can increase competitiveness and provide greater national security.
“If we leave people to themselves and say “You’re on your own,” we open the door to populism and social unrest,” Mr Hummelgaard wrote from the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos.
“And if we do not facilitate the opportunity to learn new skills, we will leave people behind without the necessary competences to the detriment of workers as well as businesses.”
Denmark invests more than $500 million a year in upskilling and training for a workforce of around 2.8 million people, and training participants are entitled to a state-financed allowance corresponding to the level of the maximum unemployment benefit rate.
And far from being a drag on growth, Mr Hummelgaard believes they have enhanced Denmark’s economy, noting that the country is ranked in the top 10 in the WEF’s Global Competitiveness report.
However, reskilling programs aren’t without their challenges.
“One of the main obstacles is motivating those people already employed in a job to continue lifelong learning,” Mr Hummelgaard says.
“In Denmark, more than one in three workers do not see the need to take part in continuing education, while only one in three firms [uses] vocational training to develop the skills of employees.”
Key to overcoming that is making courses short and practical while demonstrating their value to people who might be wary of pursuing re-education later in life.
“When the weather forecast says a hurricane is coming, we act,” Mr Hummelgaard says.
“We take precautions for our own homes. We help our neighbours and we join our efforts in local communities. We take joint responsibility because we are aware of the dire consequences if we do not act.”