Thirteen years ago, An Inconvenient Truth, the documentary made by Albert Gore, the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, became pivotal for the global discussion on the climate change problem, which brought the issue to the top of many political agendas. This enabled decisive measures aimed at reduction of harmful emissions, including the transition to clean energy.
Yet, another global problem of comparable scale - that of a growing personnel gap ("personnel hole") has long remained neglected by political leaders who were short-sighted to view it as an afterthought. Paradoxically, while graduates and mid-career professionals struggle to find an appropriate job, it takes years for employers to recruit the required staff for key positions.
The digital revolution, combined with breakthroughs in robotics and AI technologies, as well as, among others, transition to clean energy, is accelerating the ongoing change, which is felt just everywhere. The existing personnel training and talent management systems are lagging behind the ever-changing situation. According to the latest studies, more than a billion people worldwide, or nearly a quarter of the world's entire employed population, are either under- or overqualified for the job they are doing now. The world's energy sector on the whole, and the nuclear energy industry in particular are the areas, where the personnel gap has been particularly acute over the last decade.
Repatriation of talents
The BRICS countries, which were until recently the main "net exporter" of talents, now do their best to reverse the brain drain, becoming importers of personnel. All of these countries have either launched talent repatriation programs, or are about to do so by motivating skilled specialists to get back home, which often involves generous wage offers. Admittedly, the "talent development ecosystem" is a great way to ensure interaction between all the players of the labour market. Yet, binding employees to a particular company would inevitably affect the workforce mobility.
What became widely known in the US as RETAIN (Regional Talent Innovation Networks) is an initiative that has brought together previously competing hi-tech companies for joint funding of programs of targeted training and re-training of personnel. In Denmark, a system operates known as Flexicurity, which is essentially an education insurance for labour market: when a specialist is made redundant, he or she is offered an option to upgrade their qualifications or switch to another speciality at a local retraining centre to obtain skills required for a different job - all, free of charge. The retraining courses are funded in parts by employers and state subsidies.
Ecosystem of talents
As the skills crisis problem is, in terms of its scale, on par with that of the climate change, it requires the comparable scope of coordinated response at the international level. The world needs a global talent development ecosystem that would unite individual countries and companies into cross-border skills networks. In such a system, each participant would have access to a single database, pool of ideas and free exchange of information. Unfortunately, as of now, this concept cannot be implemented.
Since its foundation in 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is considered a renowned world authority on the matter in question. A similar international task force could be created to search for tools to tackle the personnel crisis and the talent deficit. Its objective would be to work out a political solution of the problem through aggregation of a comprehensive database including statistics by countries, the best practices and new ideas for viable coordinated steps.
The creeping global crisis of skills must be stopped, until it is too late. The war on climate change is far from over, and yet another problem of a similar scale may become catastrophic for the mankind.
Alexey Likhachev, a column for Les Echos newspaper (France)