Effective Human Capital Development in a Changing World of Work

FHI 360

Youth unemployment is a problem that has reached crisis dimensions in the Middle East and North Africa, and a phenomenon of worrying magnitude almost everywhere else. Yet employment, writ large, has always been a primary concern of governments: fifty years ago, a survey of economic policies in nine Western countries put “full employment” at the top of the list of objectives. Governments have never had an easy time creating jobs; traditional policy instruments have always been quite limited and today’s political, environmental, and economic context makes it harder. The private sector, meanwhile, is the source of most jobs—and as all managers intuitively understand, enterprise growth is closely linked to success in finding and nurturing productive workers.

In a new paper from FHI 360, Monika Aring and Lara Goldmark explore workforce development, or human capital development, as a field of its own, encompassing education systems, economic development policies and programs, and corporations’ human resource functions.

The authors argue that workforce development programs must be aligned at the top—with economic development strategies; in the middle—with education systems and employers; and at the bottom—with the needs of particular target groups. The authors also affirm that the time has come to move beyond the traditional frames of reference that have historically dominated the   discourse on employment. A forward-looking perspective is called for if countries are to rise to the jobs challenge: encouraging workplace flexibility; exploring new ways to connect—or even merge—school and work; and daring to discuss what policy measures might be appropriate for today’s economic environment.

In the first section, the authors explore key trends and drivers in human capital development and employment, and propose a framework to help readers visualize the building blocks of an aligned workforce development system. In the second section the authors demonstrate how best practice countries (Singapore, Ireland, and Germany), have implemented effective human capital development strategies – by synchronizing policy, investments, and service delivery among the country’s key economic actors. In the third section, specific, bulleted recommendations are offered to policymakers, business leaders, and practitioners seeking to align the key parts of their national workforce development systems. 

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