Throughout history, technology has changed the nature of work. This has created new opportunities and jobs, but there are also concerns about technology’s impact on job security and displacement. Google.org’s $2 million grant to Nesta, a global innovation foundation, will set up partnerships with trade unions in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium. The program will provide training to workers whose jobs are changing rapidly as a result of automation or digitalization—for example, people working in administrative roles, manufacturing and the service industry.
Nesta will deliver training through a new program called FutureFit, which will help workers get the skills they need to adapt to changes in their workplace. Using training methods such as nano learning—where trainings are broken down into small chunks—and gamification, the program will shed light on learner behavior and motivation. This evidence will be used to inform future training.
While research from McKinsey shows that automation can actually increase the total number of jobs in the countries covered by this project, a recent poll showed that 40 percent of the Swedish workforce worries about not getting access to the training they need to compete in the future job market. And the OECD found that people in jobs most at risk from automation do less training than workers in jobs at low risk.
The Nordics and Benelux countries are the perfect places to try Nesta’s techniques and build on Google.org’s engagement with nonprofits to equip people with the skills needed for the future labor market. The countries in the region are digital frontrunners, and have a tradition of investing in lifelong learning. We know this from Google initiatives we’ve introduced to the region: In Sweden, we toured the country with the national Swedish Public Employment Service to train thousands of people in digital skills. In the Netherlands, we worked with the trade union CNV to re-skill workers in transport and logistics. And in Denmark, we teamed up with the major trade union HK to educate administrative workers as “digital change agents.” Across Europe, we’ve now trained five million people in new skills. Since May 2018, we’ve also been building on the Digital Frontrunners program from Nesta, a collaborative program to help senior policymakers create a more inclusive digital economy.
In Finland, Nesta will run a pilot program with The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), Finland’s largest labour confederation. The program will focus on helping workers whose professions are undergoing high rates of change due to technology, such as administrative roles or manufacturing. SAK President Jarkko Eloranta put it this way: “A third of employees in Finland find modern technology a source of anxiety at work, so learning opportunities of this kind should be part of regular duties at all workplaces. Employees need new digital skills to embrace smart technology at work.”
We’re committed to providing one hundred million EUR in grants in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in the next five years to better understand the changing nature of work, and to support nonprofits that help people navigate a changing labour market. The Nesta program will be a great addition to that effort, and we hope the grant will help to ensure that workers are equipped with the skills needed to support them in changes to their everyday work lives.