How reskilling can play a key role in Turkey’s recovery

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Mustafa Varank, Minister of Industry and Technology, Ministry of Industry and Technology of Turkey & Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director, World Economic Forum


  • Reskilling initiatives will be critical to Turkey’s COVID-19 recovery.
  • Turkey must reskill more than 21 million workers to meet the demands of the future of work.
  • The new Closing the Skills Gap Accelerator program will help governments and businesses prepare their country for the future of work.

As Turkey prepares to accelerate the transformation of its economy during the COVID-19 recovery, leveraging its human capital will be crucial.

The Turkish economy has managed to weather the storm in 2020 with GDP growth at 1.8%, outperforming all G20 economies except China. It also continued to grow within the first quarter of 2021 with the rate of 7%. As a result of economic recovery process, industrial production and employment were managed to reach its pre-pandemic period very rapidly. Yet, the social impacts of COVID-19 have been profound, with unemployment sitting at 10.6% as of June 2021.

A report on the “Future of Work. Turkey’s Talent Transformation in the Digital Era”, published by McKinsey and Company in January 2020, estimated that although automation, artificial intelligence and digital technologies will cause some job losses in the country, gains in productivity, increased investments and the growth of the service economy will result in 3.1 million net new jobs by 2030, including 1.8 million jobs that currently do not exist.

To enable these gains, 21.1 million workers will need to be reskilled.

A global Reskilling Revolution

Human capital is increasingly recognized as the key asset that will allow countries to grow and transform their economies in the future. According to a study conducted by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with PwC, wide-scale investment in upskilling has the potential to boost global GDP by $6.5 trillion by 2030. Education and training systems need to keep pace with the new demands of labor markets, while forming a pillar of economic recovery measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 has accelerated the future of work. According to the Future of Jobs Report 2020, 85 million jobs will be displaced across 26 countries by 2025, while 97 million will be added. Global data also show that those who are currently being displaced from the labor market are on average more likely to be female, younger and have a lower wage. The report also finds that more than 80% of employers expect to make wider use of remote work and to digitize work processes. About half of all employers are also preparing to automate some work.

Image: Future of Jobs Report 2020

Unless more is done to invest in growth jobs and sectors, we may be heading for a jobless recovery. The care economy will play a big role in creating the jobs of tomorrow, but significant growth will also come from roles that will enable the digital and green transition and the transformation of our workplaces: data and artificial intelligence, engineering and cloud computing, people and culture, product development, sales, marketing and content production.

The Future of Jobs Report estimates that nearly half of all workers will need reskilling. Employers are increasingly recognizing the value of investing in their employees’ skill development – an average of 66% of those surveyed said they expect to see a return on investment in reskilling and upskilling within a one year. These efforts are also increasingly moving to online platforms, suggesting a significant shift to digital-first learning.

Image: Global Gender Gap Report 2021

Closing the skills gap in Turkey

According to the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), Turkey needs to improve the proficiency level in basic skills of a significant part of its population in order to use technologies that will increase productivity and enable more efficient working methods. Fortunately, the gap with the OECD countries is decreasing and is smallest for 15 -24-year-olds.

Turkey should continue to build the right set of soft and technical skills for current and future jobs and provide better opportunities for all.

As the main authority to design industry and technology policies in Turkey, the Ministry of Industry and Technology (MoIT) attaches utmost importance to develop effective strategies and incentives for navigating both technology-led transformation and enhancing employability and skills to meet labour market needs.

This was the reason why the human capital agenda is fully integrated within the key strategy and initiative that will shape Turkey’s technological and digital development in the next years, most notably the “Turkey’s 2023 Industry and Technology Strategy” and “National Technology Initiative”

This transformation also requires the public sector, businesses, social parties and non-governmental organizations to work closer and produce common policies and strategies

Turkey is also increasingly investing in innovation and technology development through its National Technology Initiative, with the ambitious target to increase R&D spending to 1.8% of GDP over the next two to three years.

Turkey has a young, dynamic and vibrant population, which presents a tremendous opportunity to hone and utilize their skills to drive the country towards global leadership in the emerging niches of the new economy.

The right skilling strategy should focus not only on the quality of education but also on the quality of the ecosystem that continuously reskills workers and creates jobs to absorb and retain the young workforce.

A number of initiatives are already under way. For example, “Open Source Platform” which is a public-private-academic initiative to improve software developer ecosystem and increase the number of qualified software developers has launched.

MoIT has also established two coding schools with Ecole 42, a new generation free coding school with project-based, peer-to-peer and gamified learning system. Two schools have a capacity of 2,000 students, and the duration is about three years, resulting in a potential employability rate of 100%. The private sector contributes to curriculum development, projects and mentoring.

Another initiative is “DENEYAP Technology Workshops”, which provides basic technology education to the students from grade 4 to grade 9 since 2017. DENEYAP provides trainings for three years in the fields of design, coding, robotics, electronic programming, internet of things, nanotechnology, aviation and space. These workshops have been established in 30 provinces, and 5,600 students have started or completed trainings. The target is to reach a total of 100 workshops in 81 provinces in order to provide training to more than 50,000 students within five years. https://www.youtube.com/embed/KnDUFHnRtSs?enablejsapi=1&wmode=transparent

Accelerating initiatives

A coalition of government and business leaders will now work together to scale and accelerate many of these initiatives through the Turkey Closing the Skills Gap Accelerator, coordinated by the Istanbul Development Agency in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. With this initiative, Turkey joined a group of 10 countries that are implementing this model as part of the Reskilling Revolution.

The Closing the Skills Gap Country Accelerators are national public-private collaboration platforms to help governments and businesses prepare their country for the future of work through improving skilling and education ecosystems. The model is designed to implement targeted initiatives across four key objectives: lifelong learning and upskilling; proactive redeployment and re-employment; innovative skills funding models; and skills anticipation and job market insight.

Across these four objectives, the strategies selected by the accelerator will take a systemic approach to unlocking collaborative action within institutional structures and policies as well as norms and attitudes and collective leaders’ commitment. Ensuring a skills-based recovery will be essential to ensuring long-term prosperity and inclusion for the Turkish population.

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