Institute of Education

Research & Expertise to Make a Difference in Education & Beyond

Rethinking Talent, Skills and Education in the Age of Disruptive Change

In June 2017, IOE welcomed a two-day seminar of the International Academic Consortium working as part of the landmark Key Competencies and New Literacy project, a joint initiative between IOE and Sberbank’s Investment in Future charity foundation.

Dr. Jarkko Hautamäki, Emeritus Professor at the University of Helsinki (Finland) and a Project Consortium member, took part in the seminar to present about global 21st century skills agenda as well as Finnish experience in tailoring national education systems to better meet new competency & literacy challenges. In an interview following the seminar sessions, Dr. Hautamäki shared some deeper perspectives on the role of talent upgrades in today’s era of rapid technological advancements and network economy.


“It is amazing to realize how drastic and far-reaching the current and impending changes are. What we are all witnessing signals a deep social turnaround possibly heralding the first time ever when education & talent strategy is becoming the unconditional and ultimate determiner in how fit we are to survive into a sustainably prosperous future.   

The 21st century has marked a dynamic transition to a new phase of global innovation, the age of knowledge, automation and resource efficiency, this flagging up largely revised requirements for both material and human capital.

Recent decades have seen societies increasingly reshape into more globalized, digitized and technology-driven environments of growing diversity and mobility. Hierarchical organizational structures, conventional production, fixed-structured formal labor and long-lived outlooks have given way to the economy of networking, its features including big data ecosystems, personalization & customization, shorter-cycle transdisciplinary innovation, resource sharing, and operational agility, to mention just a few.

Longer-term social integrity and wellbeing primarily depend on how successful a nation is in upgrading and diversifying its economic profile to steadily deliver competitive, higher-value-added R&D outputs best fit to support a domestic growth momentum and bring extra gains from exposures to the global technology market. Reflecting a disruptive turnaround in production and consumption models, this urge for new standards of economic growth has radically reconceptualized value management and the role of human capital in value creation.

“Gone are the days when delivering sustainable value was mostly about specialized workforce making and marketing a conventional product mix for decades by carrying out a standardized set of routine operations.

In modern markets, economic value is increasingly associated with innovative ideas devised and commercialized by intelligence partnerships of various size and format, from a few multi-skilled professionals and to agile digitized project networks spanning different parties at stake across the globe. The actively reshaping social and industry landscape has catalyzed a deep reframing in the labor sector, which entails both shifts in job demand, occupational skill profiles and employment patterns. Some professions are now at rising risk of redundancy, others, by contrast, are growing fast accompanied by new competency requirements, and more people worldwide tend to engage in non-conventional network-driven employment modes, such as project-based freelancing and remote working. These processes confront businesses and individuals with major economic and social challenges, which include an intensifying struggle on the corporate talent battleground, career instability and welfare threats.    

All of the above has prompted a lifetime imperative for comprehensive upgrades in an individual’s core functional competencies as well as expanded mental abilities and new social capacities. In particular, employers broadly cite proactive leadership, self-efficacy and strong multicultural communication skills, ICT savvy and information literacy, flexibility and cooperativeness, critical thinking, visionary strategic acumen, and the ability to deliver resourceful, outside-the-box solutions as the most sought-after attributes of a future-ready professional, with the majority of global industry chiefs reporting scarcity of such key skills as the biggest disincentive to efficiency and growth.         

“Today’s idea-centered economy emphasizes the principal role of appropriately skilled human capital as the key asset enabling communities to keep up with the pace of world transformations.

The major concern, however, is whether all nations are actually equipped with the right vision, development approaches and resources to weather the disruptive changes underway by striking an adequate balance of 21st century-proof talent through promptly reconceptualizing education policies and curricular.

This makes the Sberbank–IOE project we are currently working on, as well as similar large-scale initiatives, absolutely central to designing the most feasible roadmaps toward wiser and more efficient education strategies. With all the parties sharing a common understanding of the methodological framework and ultimate objectives to be achieved, such cooperative efforts will allow making a deeper impact on social capital reengineering and community welfare through the synergies of ongoing academic best-practice exchange in a prolific environment of diverse national experiences and in-depth cross-country perspectives.