The Asia-Pacific region is the most productive region in the current global economy but it can only be as strong as the students, workers, and managers that it creates.

APEC initiatives to promote trade and investment liberalization and to reduce the digital divide improve the economic wellbeing of all the people in the APEC region. But workers and managers need to have the job skills to take advantage of these new economic opportunities. A vigorous APEC Human Resource Development policy, advanced by the HRDWG, can help ensure a skilled labour force that will further drive productivity and distribute the income benefits from productivity gains broadly throughout the APEC population.

A New Targeted Approach
One of the new thrusts of the HRDWG is to focus on building a regional body of knowledge in specific topic areas. The APEC Education Network (EDNET), a group that coordinates joint activities in the field of education, has been concentrating on this type of focused work, most notably in the area of mathematics and language learning.
The APEC Ministers endorsed this targeted approach to project development when they directed the development of an APEC Strategic Action Plan for English and Other Languages. This mandate addresses the increasing importance of knowing and using foreign languages for expanded international trade and knowledge transmission, at a time when international communication is growing.

The Strategic Action Plan, which is currently being developed by the HRDWG, will assess the feasibility of establishing standards for communicative and business language proficiency, and will synthesize best evidenced-based practices in the delivery of a foreign language.

It will utilize APEC projects' existing body of knowledge and build on these efforts. For example: Thailand supported a project to develop business English; Chile and Chinese Taipei have joined forces on a conference to support the development of APEC standards for English; and the E-Language Research Consortium project utilizes new online technologies to deliver language instruction over the web, currently focused on English and Chinese.

Higher education demands are of increasing concern as members experience sharp increases in total student numbers and investments in higher education. The significant internationalization of enrollments in many APEC higher education systems also makes quality assurance an international concern.

To address these demands, Australia coordinated "The Enhancement of Quality Assurance Systems in Higher Education Report" which examined how to deliver high-quality postsecondary education in APEC member economies. The report compares a range of quality assurance systems, documenting trends and identifying the characteristics of those that have worked well.

Wiki Technology to Enhance Collaboration

A pioneering collaborative online Wiki APEC-HRDWG tool will be launched to support the 2008 Education Ministerial in Peru. Similar to the landmark Wikipedia, this Education Wiki will be used to conduct collaborative work between members. The Wiki will offer a new way for APEC to gather the collective wisdom of experts across networks, working groups, and within the region.

By focusing the HRDWG's objectives and by employing new generation web technology to support collaboration among the HRDWG networks and other fora, the HRDWG will be better equipped to develop research-based policies that ensure a skilled labor force, that support corporate social responsibility, and that promote the broad distribution of income gains from globalization and information and communication technologies.

Recent Reforms to Improve Expertise and Effectiveness

The HRDWG conducts its work program through three networks: the Capacity Building Network (CBN); the Education Network (EDNET); and the Labor and Social Protection Network (LSPN). The HRDWG also has responsibility for building cultural awareness and gender equity.

To strengthen HRDWG expertise in recommending economy adjustments to trade and other economic dislocations the Social Safety Net Capacity Building Network is being merged, at the Ministers' request, into the LPSN.

The group will continue to work to improve its effectiveness by aligning its goals with three APEC-wide objectives: sharing knowledge and skills to help members build a 21st Century workforce; integrating HRD into the global economy; and addressing the social dimensions of globalization.

Written by Dr. Alan Ginsburg, Chair of the Human Resources Development Working Group and Director, Policy and Program Studies Services, Office of the Under Secretary, US Department of Education