Dodwell in SOM1 Moscow - Post 3

February 09, 2012

February 9, 2012


Over five days of meetings for APEC’s Human Resources Development Working Group – the biggest human resources meeting since Washington in March last year -  the need for closer links with business has been a constant theme. I think business needs to take note, and examine how we can link with them in tackling some of the labour market challenges that are likely to intensify over the coming decade.

But for now, ABAC’s priority for the business community has been a major Skills Mapping initiative, which was launched in September 2010 in Beijing at APEC’s first Human Resources Ministerial in nine years. There have been times over the past year when it seemed the initiative would flounder, but now, under the meticulous stewardship of Australia, there is rising confidence that the project will get the go ahead. We will know in a couple of days, when APEC’s Budget Management Committee finalizes the projects that will get APEC funding in the year ahead.

Nick Mowbray in Moscow for the Human Resources Development Working Group meetings. He is the HR main driver from Australia of the Skills Mapping initiative.

ABAC’s logic in calling for the initiative has been widely accepted by APEC: in spite of the current recession, and the high levels of unemployment associated with it, the longer-term demographic trend is for a shrinking labour force across the region, and acute skills shortages in many sectors of our economies. Note that the Hong Kong government just this week revealed that they expect acute skills shortages to be cramping Hong Kong’s growth by 2018. The best way of tackling this challenge is not just to build a clearer picture economy-by-economy of future skills needs and emerging labour shortages, but to make sure that every APEC economy adopts the same data-gathering methodologies in skills mapping, so that when all the data is lumped together, we can build an APEC-wide picture of the region’s most acute labour shortages. Our APEC officials accept that if we can do this, then all of our economies can fund better-targeted vocational training programmes, and in due course identify those areas where we are going to need to import skilled labour if our long-term competitiveness is to be sustained – both as individual economies and as a region.

While ABAC can be thanked for pressing this initiative, it is the APEC Human Resources officials in Australia who must be thanked for pushing this large and ambitious project through the complex APEC machinery. They have shaped a project that stands a good chance of delivering a common region-wide approach to measuring skills shortages by the end of 2013. They have won co-sponsorship for the project from eight other APEC economies. The project needs around US$90,000 of APEC project funding. Assuming the project gets approved, there are likely to be calls for ABAC to provide practical support – not least from private sector Human Resources professionals in the region who can provide counsel on how to build a skills mapping methodology that is sophisticated and forward-looking.

In the presentations I have been able to give to Human Resources officials on ABAC’s behalf over the past few days, I have given emphasis to two key themes: first, that a reliable and comprehensive region-wide skills map will be indispensable in protecting the future competitiveness of our region’s economies. And second, that a comprehensive skills map is just the first step towards ABAC’s true goal of better-managing the movement of workers from all sectors around the region. From a business point of view, this has all taken a painfully long time. But from the point of view of Government Officials, this is a fast track success.

Traffic jam on route to MAG reception at NZ embassy.

* Read Dodwell's latest post from SOM1 Moscow


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