THE Asia Society said it backed improving education systems and providing upskilling programs in collaboration with all stakeholders as a means of preparing the region for the changing nature of the workplace.

On Tuesday, Asia Society Chair Doris Magsaysay-Ho said at the “One Step Ahead” Manila forum organized by the non-profit: “(O)ur aim is to come up with solutions and share best practices on dealing with the challenges of the future of work. Navigating this complexity needs a multi-sectoral, multi-level approach.”

Ayala Corp. Chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala gave the keynote address during the forum and underlined the importance of hard-to-find emerging skills as an asset to survive ongoing disruption in the workplace. These skills are critical not just for workers but also for the future executives and managers of businesses, he said.

“There is an increasing demand in technical skills, some of which still don’t exist in our organizations today like programming and other areas of computer science, and data science which are increasing in demand but are very difficult to find… Social skills and complex cognitive skills such as leadership skills, creativity and communication and critical skills, will also be important… and lastly, soft skills will also be valid,” he said.

He added that private enterprises also play a role in helping workers transition to change. He said: “I’m a strong believer in the private sector in bringing widespread and meaningful change… these developments are challenging both the private and public sector.”

In government, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Deputy Director General for Policy and Planning, Rosanna A. Urdaneta, said there is a need to improve TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) program. TESDA, along with other stakeholders, hopes to instill not only the importance of inclusiveness but also readiness for globalization in its National Technical Education and Skills Development Plan (NTESDP).

She said at the forum: “We’re always saying that we have to think global and act local so for the NTESDP, we came up with two strategies and that is TVET for global competitiveness and workforce readiness. The other is TVET for social equity and poverty reduction.”

Skills Future Singapore Chief Human Resources and Chief Data Officer Michael Fung said TVET should be prioritized as much as improving the curriculum. He recommends combining both systems to better prepare students for the workforce.

He said during a panel discussion: “We’re really seeing that divide between the academic education and vocation education… if you start in a vocational track, it should mean that you can come back to your academic track. You should be able to access vocational-type skills and training so you’re ready for the workforce.”

International Labor Organization (ILO) Technical Officer for the Enterprise Development and Skills Jordi Prat Tuca said collaboration by all sectors is needed to successfully transition workers to meet the demands of disruption.

“Government has to be involved… so we can see policies or sectors that we can address. Then you need employers… and employers organizations and their representations… and finally, it is critical that workers should be part of it because we are talking about the human capital and how it drives businesses to the future. Yes, it’s human to machine, but it’s still human, not machine to machine,” he said during an interview with BusinessWorld on Tuesday. — Gillian M. Cortez