introduction to international labour skills development by ILO org


As the discussions within the International Labour Organization (ILO) on the future of work
have shown, technological innovation, demographic trends and climate change are all
having an increasingly significant impact on the world of work. Together they will affect the
task make-up and skills requirements for most jobs, generate new occupations, impact the
need for skills on the part of both of the young and ageing members of the workforce, and
transform the demand for, and supply of, skills. Given the accelerating pace of change, skills
development strategies will be required to ensure the ongoing renewal of skills over one’s
working life.1
In its response to the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 

the ILO has
stressed the importance of quality education and training. It has committed to ensuring access
to pre-primary education, free primary and secondary education, and access to affordable
technical, vocational and tertiary education. In addition, it has pledged to substantially
increase the number of young people and adults with the relevant skills (including technical
and vocational skills) – for employment, decent jobs for all and entrepreneurship.2
Moreover, the world of work has been profoundly affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Not only is the health of millions of workers at risk; their long-term livelihoods and wellbeing are also at stake.

3 The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges to all
types and levels of learning, including in schools, technical and vocational education and
training (TVET), apprenticeships and skills development. In addition, it has also stimulated
discussion on the need for accelerated innovation in distance and online learning, and the
delivery of TVET and skills training.4
The notion of a job for life is receding, and Guy Ryder, the ILO Director-General, has called
for a new approach: "We need to replenish skills throughout a working career, and this calls for
revisiting the models and concept of lifelong learning to create the future we want.

This will necessitate the revision of school-based education and training for employment
and/or self-employment, as well as apprenticeships, which combine on-the-job training and
off-the-job learning, enabling learners from all walks of life to acquire the knowledge, skills
and competencies required to carry out a specific occupation. It will also require a renewed
commitment to continuing vocational education and training, to enable workers to improve
or update their knowledge and skills, and/or acquire new skills for career progression.
iv Skills Development and Lifelong Learning – Resource Guide for Workers’ Organizations
As a result of the future of work discussions that were held at the ILO in June 2019, at
the 108th (Centenary) Session of the International Labour Conference, the ILO constituents
adopted the Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work.5
This Declaration sets out guidelines for the work of the ILO and its constituents for the years
to come, and – not surprisingly – the challenges around skills development and lifelong
learning are high on the agenda. In a context of profound transformations in the world of
work, and with the aim of developing a human-centred approach to its future, the Declaration
underlines the importance of skills development for all workers throughout their working
lives. The Declaration additionally states that it is a joint responsibility of governments and
social partners to address existing and anticipated skills gaps, paying particular attention to
ensuring that education and training systems are responsive to labour market needs, while
enhancing workers’ capacity to make use of the opportunities available for decent work.
Moreover, social dialogue is a vehicle for strengthening the capacities of working people
to address challenges in respect of international labour standards and to benefit from the
opportunities of a changing world of work – and also for realizing their right to lifelong
learning and quality education for all.
In May and June 2021, ILO constituents from all over the world – governments and workers’
and employers’ organizations – will engage in a “general discussion on skills and lifelong
learning”, to provide concrete guidance on the issue for the ILO and its constituents in the
years to come.6
In addition, at the 2022 International Labour Conference, ILO Constituents will hold an initial
discussion on standard setting for quality apprenticeships. There is increasing recognition
of the key role that apprenticeships play in enabling young people to acquire the relevant
competencies to facilitate their transition from the world of education to the world of
work. Apart from providing a solution to youth unemployment, quality apprenticeships can
benefit jobseekers and workers of all ages who – due to changes in the labour market or
job requirements – find themselves in need of retraining or upskilling. Given that quality
apprenticeships have the potential to equip people with the relevant competencies to
navigate the challenges in the world of work throughout their lives, they are considered to
be an important element of the system of lifelong learning.

In short, these developments will exert a major influence over the lives of working men and
women, requiring the effective support and engagement of workers’ organizations.
Skills Development and Lifelong Learning – Resource Guide for Workers’ Organizations v
This resource guide on skills development for workers’ organizations aims to provide a
contribution to these discussions. It will examine the following questions:
X Why should workers’ organizations engage in the area of skills development and lifelong

X What issues affect their engagement?
X How do they currently engage in skills development and lifelong learning systems and
X What should their priority areas be?
X What elements of skills development and lifelong learning require the engagement of
workers’ organizations?
Skills Development and Lifelong Learning: Resource Guide for Workers’ Organizations
aims to provide answers to these questions, and in doing so to build the capacity and
engagement of workers’ organizations in skills development and lifelong learning around
the world. As the ILO Director-General has highlighted in the past, “(i)t is essential to pursue
a rights-based approach to lifelong learning, one that provides a right to training at any point
in working life. Without that approach we risk creating more inequality and less inclusive and
sustainable development.”8
We encourage trainers, facilitators, ILO officials and – most importantly – workers’
organizations to use this guide to strengthen the strategic role of workers’ organizations,
and through social dialogue to promote skills development and lifelong learning for all
workers throughout their working lives.

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