Future-Proofing the Workforce for Industry 4.0
[music] Good evening, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us on this panel towards the close of the second day of the Qatar Economic Forum. As you may know, this panel will look at how we can rescale and upskill a future-ready workforce. In the environment of technology, artificial intelligence has become a buzzword as a recent, that's just one way it's impacting the future workforce, to name a few. At the same time, as we look at those educational system and how we can reform them, we're going to look at how companies are adapting and preparing for such a shift.
I'd like to welcome my panelists, which is an excellent cohort, really on the stage with me. To begin with Amal Enan, who is a Partner at 500 Global, please come to the stage. Thank you. [applause] We have Robert Jenkins, who is the Director of Education and Adolescent Development at UNICEF. [applause] We have Tomaso Rodriguez, Chief Executive Officer at Talabat. As I said, this is a diverse panel, I think they will bring us a unique outlook on this topic, the future-ready workforce.
Amal, I come to you and as part of 500 Global, I want to ask you, what are the top skills sought by you and the companies that you work with, what are these skills and how do you use them to realize that future of an industry that's adapting to all of these technological advancements? -Well, I think at this point, increasingly, we think more about competencies and attitudes more than skills because in the reality of today's world, it's really agility. It's your ability to adapt and keep up with what's happening in the world that really determines your survival. If we define survival for the fittest is about adapting. I would prioritize that just generally the culture of the environment that we're in, the culture of the people that we work with, and including the people that we invest in, and their competencies in terms of not just the skill set and how quickly they can learn and unlearn things. When it comes to skill set, it's I think it's pretty obvious today, it is about having a digital skill set, so if you're still, getting your head around Chat GPT, that's problematic.
This is why I think it's really more about the speed of learning, the speed of unlearning and being more adaptable to today's world and the changes and being very comfortable with uncertainties. Within that, the skills that we really look for the most are predominantly increasingly in the digital sphere. Whether it's coding, computing, but more so, also just the ability to use newer technologies as they come to market. -Tomaso, what about you? We were just discussing before the panel how Talabat is a household name now in food delivery with Robert, who came from New York. What do you bring from that perspective, in terms of the skills that you're seeking? -Look, I think when you think of digital companies like Talabat at the end of the day, I think yes, we are a internet company. But at the end of the day, we are also a very physical company.
We deliver food, we deliver groceries and things like that. I think with the new technology, also new opportunities come. When it comes to skill sets and to Talabat and what it brings, at the end of the day, if you think as a country like Qatar, which is one of the most important countries for us, in the region. There were so many new jobs that were created that were not there before.
Today, there are around 5000 riders delivering for Talabat in Qatar, that they didn't have this opportunity before. Also, several thousands of restaurants today are doing food delivery, and they were not doing it before. On top of that, we also have, yes, people in our Talabat office. We have now around 250 people here in Qatar. Along with white collar jobs, we create a lot of blue collar jobs as well.
I think it's not a matter of skill sets, it's more a matter of the new opportunities that the new business model can bring, and it requires a lot of different types of people to run it. -Excellent. Now Robert, that you've heard from the company's side, we're talking about this seismic shift requiring a rethinking of a traditional educational system to keep up with the pace of the workforce of tomorrow. What does that reimagining look like to you at UNICEF? -Well, it's a great question, and thanks for having me.
Well, building on what my fellow panelists have said, I think the challenge that we need to face is, how do we enable these opportunities that were just discussed for all, or for particularly marginalized children and youth? We recognize increasingly in UNICEF, but I think all of us, that there is a growing divide. How do we enable children and youth of today and tomorrow to be able to grab on to these opportunities? The ChatGPTs or technology or innovate, these are all amazing opportunities, but currently are leaving hundreds of millions of children and adolescents behind. That's something therefore that needs to be addressed. How education systems need to change basically to become accessible to all, to bridge all children and youth into those learning opportunities.
I think the big shift is no longer trying to figure out how do we enable children and youth to come to school to bring those learning environments to children and youth themselves with technology and other means, focus on the skills. They've been talking about digital skills, entrepreneurship. These are all great opportunities and we see some amazing things happening around the world. I just don't want to shy away from the fact that currently the trends are negative and the divide is growing and there's tons of shocking statistics. For example, 70% of 10-year-olds currently in low-income countries. If you're 10 in low-income country, you've been in school from up to four years on average.
70% cannot read still today after being in school for years. We just have to be a little bit careful. We're not seeing these amazing innovations but we recognize that we've got literally hundreds of millions of children not learning the basics. -How do we reach those underprivileged or rather more marginalized groups and bring them up to this new workforce that we're thinking of? -Well, I think it begins with commitment and dedicated recognition that to be an engine for growth for an economy, we need to prioritize all and to ensure our learning environments are accessible to all. If you see leadership of governments, of companies, of others focusing on the marginalized and bridging them back, that's step 1. Then we have connectivity issues.
We were discussing Thomas and I, just as we were coming up, in connecting schools to the internet, providing devices to all so that they can benefit. Refocusing curriculums and teacher skills so that it is indeed skill-based and useful. I think of, I grew up in a small town in northern Canada. When I graduated, those skills that I graduated from were not very useful to the labor market. Now, I would think even less so that your typical graduate is leaving with skills that aren't appropriate for today's market as Amal had mentioned, in an increasingly changing dynamic world. We need a transformation, a really a disruption in order to make schooling accessible, learning accessible to all, and also to make it relevant.
-Amal, I come back to you and building off of this, bringing everyone and making sure that it's an equal playing field. How can we use innovation again, with the companies that you're working with? How do you see we can use innovation to push for economic development but at the same time help bolster the economy? -We spend a lot of time thinking about this question and I love that Robert emphasized the digital divide which is something I feel closely in my work, but also something that we spend a lot of time as a firm thinking about, because I have colleagues in San Francisco and Singapore who have very different problems than the ones that I face in Egypt when it comes to upskilling the labor force, right? They're definitely the technologies there are the deployment of those technologies, so much more advanced and and really ready to go. In Egypt, I have to say, "we still have a guy in the elevator who presses the button."
When you think of-- is this guy getting replaced anytime soon by ChatGPT? I'm pretty sure not. At the same time there is such great opportunity and it is being materialized in terms of how education and upskilling is able to be deployed on a wider scale because of technology. When you talked about 70% of the children are being educated, that is quickly, very quickly changing because all kids are on phones and smartphones, even in very remote villages where there isn't even the bandwidth. What are we delivering through those smartphones? I think what we work with governments and corporates a lot on is three things. One is definitely investing in the digital infrastructure.
Again, bandwidth, computers within the school's, iPads, and more and more and more how to reach the underserved populations with financial services, with healthcare services. If a driver in Talabat is not able to get the order in time and can't use a smartphone to get the orders delivered, that is a lost opportunity for both the customer and an employment opportunity for those drivers. I think there is a lot that governments together, with corporates can do in terms of investing in the digital infrastructure, digital literacy.
I think increasingly we cannot talk about an employable workforce if we're still not only addressing people's ability to read and write, but also aren't able to use digital services. There's more that we can do with regards to digital literacy. Really, what it comes down to is enhancing a culture of innovation. And I'm not using innovation as just a fancy term, but it really means risk-taking.
Are we-- Our population still in the Middle East is very risk-averse. There are a lot of things that have changed and I think actually are changing faster than in Europe and the US in terms of our risk-taking behavior because we're hungry. We see the underserved markets, we see the opportunity and we're very hungry to lean into them. Still a lot needs to be done to nudge the young population to take those risks.
You're not going to get a government job or a corporate job. When I graduated, the ideal job was working for an investment bank or a consulting firm, or a multinational. You ask a Gen Z today and that's the last thing they want to do with their lives. What we do is a lot of entrepreneurship programs to open up the doors for not just starting your own company, but how can you add to the growth of the technology sector in our societies, in our economy. This is something that I'm increasingly optimistic as I see more [?] happening across the region. -Excellent, and touching upon what Amal said about partnerships, Tomas, I know that you had quite a significant partnership in the World Cup in Qatar, and I'd like to touch upon the partnerships to help us get to the future workforce and what that looks like between the private and the public sector.
-Look, for us working with the government is very, very important in all of the countries we operate in. Qatar specifically, because I think Qatar is for us also a bit of a test ground for a lot of new technologies. In 2021, we started testing robot deliveries here in Qatar and also we started testing with drones and we are running some e-bikes, pilots, et cetera, and we're doing all of it here. I think for us, it's important to work with the government because a lot of these technologies are there, are ready to go live but what is missing is a bit of the regulatory piece of it. I think coming, get back to future of delivery and jobs, et cetera, I think one piece you always people touch upon is like, what about the jobs if you start doing this things at ChatGPT, AI and all this stuff.
I think I went a bit back to look at what happened in history and I found it very funny that in early 20th century when machines were coming to agriculture, 50% of the workforce was employed in agriculture, more or less back then, and people were saying, "Okay, we're going to lose 50% of the jobs." In the '30s when machines came to Industrial Revolution, et cetera, people were saying, these machines are going to put everybody out of jobs. In 2012, there were two economists from the Oxford University that made a study on how many jobs were at risk at 2012 because of automation that was coming. Guess what? It was 50% of the jobs. Since the early 20th century, 50% of the jobs are always been at stake because of technology, because of innovation, and because of all these things.
What changed is though the pace at which this happened because if the telephone took 75 year to get a 100 million users, ChatGPT took three months, I think to get to 100 million users. I think we need to realize that we live in a society where every job is constantly at stake of being replaced. What is very good is that a lot of new jobs are coming to the market because suddenly you have more needs, you can create more services and more products for customers and employ more people as well. I'm very positive and optimistic about new technologies because I think they're enabler to have a better life. All of us have a better life and have people that work in those new services that we didn't have before that create a better life, hopefully for everybody without divide, yes.
-Yes, excellent. I'm sure Robert, for you, partnerships is such a big part of what you do and what does that look like to you and UNICEF and the group that you lead? -It is a big part of what we do, and I just get really excited when I hear both from Amal and, and Tomaso in that this pace of change increasing and the disruption and all these amazing technologies. I think we all recognize all over the world, high-income, low-income countries and [?] education systems need disrupting. We need more change. It's incredibly exciting.
Again, we just need to figure out, as Tomaso just mentioned. How do we ensure that all get to participate and all have at least the basics in order to benefit from such. Take ChatGPT, I'm incredibly excited about what an amazing tool that can be to teachers and enable to better deliver learning environments and to students themselves to grab on to these different opportunities. I am optimistic that the trends will change, but it will require significant resources.
It will require effort, and commitment, like my fellow panelists to enable such a transformation. -Yes, absolutely. We're just talking about the workforces, the people themselves, but looking at the companies and what the leaders of those companies are doing to help rethink, prepare, and develop and manage this new talent.
What are some examples of the companies that you're dealing with? What does that look like? -One thing that I like about the trend that we're seeing and actually the trend that we're encouraging with companies, including our own. I think it's very important to also lead by example is lifelong learning. You don't graduate school and, just try your luck and hope you manage for the rest of your life. You have to invest in your own education throughout your lifetime and throughout your professional career. We do that as a company. Also, we do it for companies.
A lot of the entrepreneurship programs we have in Egypt, we have a seed bootcamp that is for very early-stage companies. We also have a scale-up program for leader-stage companies. We do investment programs for angel investors, family offices, corporates that are launching venture arms and their own venture investing teams. I think this is really important within companies and whether you're very early stage or later stage to continuing, to continue to investing in lifelong learning.
The other thing that is equally important, and I cannot emphasize enough, is actually increasing the diversity and inclusion within companies because this is where you really bring in the different perspectives. As Robert said, the commitment then becomes more a collective commitment and you get more coordinated and deliberate efforts to upscale, to change, to face the dynamic pace of change together. I think that this is the benefit or one of the many benefits that having more diverse teams and more inclusive teams can bring to our company. -I just want to jump onto Amal. I can't agree with her more. I think a key part of lifelong learning too is micro credentialing rather than formal, I need an MBA, I need a doctorate, I can do these short courses that enable me to grab onto a job in Talabat or grab onto a job.
I think that's an amazing relatively new change in the way we're learning and certifying that learning. -That's actually a really great point. Developing on what Amal was mentioning with diversity and you were saying that the trends were going into negative. I really want to focus on the gender situation with women in the workforce. What are the statistics like showing up there and with the workforce going more and more digital, how will women, especially in more marginalized area, fit in? -It's a great question.
Globally, the trends are continuing to see, we see a significant gender divide. Let me back up a little bit and put on a UNICEF hat in terms of basic education. If you take 20 years ago, we've had and to today, one of the greatest successes in gender in basic education is near parity and enrollment between boys and girls at primary school.
That when I started in this field 30 years ago in education that was not the case in many, many countries, still not the case in all countries. Globally we have parity. We have the same number of boys and girls in school, up in primary. In secondary, in some countries we do see a drop off in girls. Interestingly enough though, if you look at achievements, learning levels, including in high income countries, sometimes the divide is girls are actually outperforming boys in secondary education for those who remain.
In many countries we do see a drop off after graduation in entering the workforce. That comes to challenges around social norms and other broader gender dynamics in countries that need to be addressed in order for all boys and girls to have equal opportunities throughout their life. I think in general, the trends are positive, but indeed, it's still very much an area that requires effort. -On a positive note, I think on Middle East specifically, maybe one would not expect, but for Talabat, for us, when we look at hiring today, we are 50/50 women, men in all our departments except tech.
We definitely need more women in tech. Ladies, engineering is not a boring nerdy job. They're cool engineers as well.
I think that's something we definitely need. In Qatar actually 65% of our leaders are women. Thank you. It's pretty exciting to see how Middle East is developing on this point on the available workforce. -When you talk about gender equality, most people wouldn't think Middle East immediately, so it's a great turn to see. I bring back the same question that I asked Amal to you, Tomaso as the way that you are rethinking the way you prepare developing and managing new talents in this shift in the workforce that we're seeing.
-Can you repeat it? -How you're preparing the new talent, how you're managing them as opposed to before. -We do all the traditional things that companies do, like working with universities and partnering et cetera. Since a couple of years we started to work a lot on our internal employees and to find ways for them to understand more what they want.
I think one of the biggest problems today is that with a lot of social media influencers, and all this kind of -- Gen Z coming up, et cetera, people don't know what they want to do. I think there's a lot of successful entrepreneurs but successful influencers and normal jobs start to become a bit boring et cetera. Since two years at Talabat, we're doing this thing that is called Talabat Learning Conference for all the employees for one day a year. No one is allowed to work and we invite a lot of external speakers, right? They can bring a bit of dynamics of what's going on in the future of tech, of food tech, et cetera from all over the world. We had people from Pixar, from Google, from TikTok, all these companies and to open, I think the biggest challenge today is really knowing what's going on today.
It's very hard to understand and we hope that by sharing a bit more of that, people can take a bit the bull by the horn because as Robert was saying, it's not much about having a MBA or having a degree or something. It is more about learning that specific competence that will bring me to do that. When you look at CVs, et cetera, I think you know where you graduated from, et cetera, is starting to be a bit less relevant rather than what did you do? And how did you do it, right? And what did you learn, right? So I think the micro learning and it's becoming more and more important. -I think what Tomaso is also [?] this example of an employees is something that is a best practice within the school system also. You're 15, 16, you take a day out, you have these career fairs, you bring people from outside, in a sense break down the four walls of a classroom and making it more integrated into real life.
We see a number of school systems that are doing just that and showing amazing promise. I think the days of, "I finish my learning and then I go out onto the world with this piece of paper," and expect to be successful are fortunately shifting, I think. -One thing, because of what Roberts and Tomaso said exactly, it's also causing a huge mental health burden on the workforce. That's something we don't talk about as often or should be more top of mind for all the partners that we just mentioned, whether it's universities, whether it's governments and corporates. Tomaso said, people just don't know what they want. They're also extremely fearful.
When we increasingly keep saying, "Your job is going to be redundant in no time or you're going to be displaced." You, all of a sudden have a workforce that is living on survival rather than thriving. I think there's actually a lot of opportunity to show the positives of the digital innovation and the digital revolution that we're in. It's also that you can be anywhere and the freelancing economy, how much it's grown, how you can have so much more flexibility, and a better work-life balance.
These are some of the positives that are a luxury to many, and a privilege. I wouldn't say that's the norm in today's workforce. I think it feels like only Generation Z do enjoy that [laughs] but increasingly, what I want to say is that as we think of the partnerships, there are partnerships for creating conducive innovation environments. Like I said, risk-taking and also promoting a healthy workforce culture and how to be more collaborative and provide an environment that people can thrive in and not feel all the time like, "If I do one mistake, they're going to have another--" Again, ChatGPT just replaced that email I used to send. -Amal, Robert, Tomaso, thank you so much for your time.
Unfortunately, the time has ended for this session but it was so insightful, partnerships, educating the workforce, making sure that there's equality, such great takeaways from today's panels. Thank you so much to our panelists and thank you so much for attending everyone. [applause] -Thanks a lot.