Workers’ reskilling is urgent. Is it an opportunity to attract and retain talents?
The Italian government has allocated 30 million euros ($ 33 million) to improve the digital skills of workers most likely to be impacted by new technologies and artificial intelligence.
The funding will come from the Digital Republic Fund, which was created in 2021 and will act through two public calls for proposals. The first call for 10 million euros is aimed at workers in sectors where replacement by machines is expected to be heaviest: transportation, logistics, office and administrative work, manufacturing, services, and sales. The second, of 20 million euros, is aimed at unemployed and inactive people. According to the Fund in Italy today, 54% of people between the ages of 16 and 74 have no basic digital skills. In the rest of Europe, the average is 46%. Italy boasts the oldest workforce in the world, after Japan and Germany. According to Istat – Italian
Statistics Bureau--, today the average age of Italian workers is 44 years old and is increasing by 6
months each year. This means that a large proportion of the workers employed in Italy today were
trained at a time when there was no Internet, no Google and Artificial Intelligence.
The Impact of Workforce Aging on European Productivity report, back in 2016 the IMF pointed to
Italy, along with Greece, as the country most exposed to productivity losses precisely because its
workforce is aging.
Today there is an urgent need to think about reskilling pathways for millions of people who will
need to update their skills to be able to access new tasks related to Industry 4.0 and future
The Italian case is characterized by the mismatch between supply and demand -- among the
largest in the OSCE-- due to the lack of alignment between the schooling system and the labor
market. Furthermore, training of the job and continuous education are rare: the incidence of
training on the total number of workers does not reach 10% vs a 20% European average. That is
why this Italian government initiative is particularly relevant. But Italy is certainly not the only
country facing this situation.
A recent report by the World Economic Forum has indicated reskilling as the central theme of the
coming years. In the U.S. alone, for example, reskilling will involve an expenditure of more than
$34 billion, largely funded by the state.
In the next ten years or so, according to many studies, as many as 375 million workers, or about
14 percent of the global workforce, may need to change jobs, due to the impact that digitization,
automation and advances in artificial intelligence are already having on productivity today and
soon on that of services. The scale of the phenomenon is similar to the massive societal changes
occurred during the first industrial revolution. Today will swifter and socially more disruptive.
The European Union has announced the world's first law to regulate AI by 2023, in an effort to
avoid an impact that could jeopardize the stability of democracies.
While this will be a challenging endeavor due to the societal implications and the landscape of Italy’s industry – dominated by small and micro enterprises—it does represent an opportunity to attract back to Italy and to retain young talents. Brain drain is Italy’s Achille’s hill. Top graduates tend to migrate abroad due to both better salaries and professional growth opportunities. This Teutonic shift about to occur in the labor market should push companies, especially larger and those active in foreign markets, to speak up and propose attractive yet pragmatic solutions to achieve this goal. The time is ripe for enhanced public-private partnerships where companies must find an innovativeprocess to transfer know-how to policy makers.