Labor officials from APEC member economies are partnering with the private sector to fight the rapidly widening gap between skill levels and employer demand in the Asia-Pacific, prompted by the threat it poses to employment and growth in the digital era. Focus is on mitigating the shortage of personnel equipped to analyze customer, product and other big data vital to business decision-making.

Officials announced the launch of a collaborative data skills enhancement initiative during a slate of policy development meetings in Nha Trang to strengthen labor and social protection in the region. It includes the commissioning of an impact assessment and formation of a corporate backed panel to guide academic institutions and governments on relevant, employer compatible curricula design—affecting industries ranging from auto production to e-commerce to healthcare.

The panel, which will also include heads of data science and analytics education programs, will convene in May in Singapore to identify the data-related skills needs of employers in APEC economies and take implementation work forward. It is co-chaired on the private sector side by global skills and knowledge company Wiley and the Business-Higher Education Forum.

“Jobs requiring data analytics competency are multiplying fast and creating a massive shortage of qualified employees in the Asia-Pacific,” explained Prof Dong Sun Park, Chair of the APEC Human Resources Development Working Group, which administers regional policy cooperation on education and labor issues. “APEC is teaming up with the private sector to ensure proper competencies and training are in place to meet the urgent need for data literate managers and analysts.”

Currently, 40 per cent of employers globally claim that they cannot find the talent they need and in some APEC economies this figure is as high as 86 per cent, according to Manpower Group. This shortfall costs businesses billions of dollars in lost revenue and is projected to escalate precipitously—an ominous sign for employment around the region, particularly among youth seeking to enter into the workforce.

Examples include a lack of personnel with the skillsets to analyze data to manage and optimize supply chains in manufacturing, combat fraud in financial services and achieve more efficient production and consumption in the energy space. The absence of skilled employees to determine the efficacy of drugs in clinical trials and advertising in marketing and communications are among other examples of potential disruptions within sectors that collectively recruit millions of people.

“As industry use of big data surges the need for personnel that understands how to gather, interpret and apply it will become increasingly critical to business decision-making and growth,” said Le Kim Dung, a senior official with the Viet Nam Ministry of Labor and co-coordinator of the APEC Human Resources Development Working Group Labor and Social Protection Network. The network is the coordinating body for APEC’s upskilling initiative known as Project DARE, or Data Analytics Raising Employment.

“Economies across the Asia-Pacific and at all levels of development will be tested by the rise of data-driven business models,” concluded Mary Morola, who also co-coordinates the APEC Labor and Social Protection Network and is Deputy Secretary of Papua New Guinea’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. “We are working to figure out how best to cater to changing skills demand to avert a spike in unemployment or underemployment in favor of higher job growth, wage potential and living standards for people in the region.”

Relevant corporate and academic representatives interested in participating in the Project DARE Advisory Group should contact Tracy Huang at thuang@crowell.com by 6 March 2017.

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For further details, or to arrange possible media interviews, please contact:

David Hendrickson (in Nha Trang) +65 9137 3886 at drh@apec.org

Michael Chapnick (in Nha Trang) +65 9647 4847 at mc@apec.org

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