Thai organisations should brace for tough competition to attract digital talent after the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a global shift in workforce trends, according to a partner at PwC Thailand.
The public and private sectors must work together to upskill their workforce more broadly in order to create more inclusive opportunities to obtain jobs of the future, a move that will ease fears of automation leaving workers with no income.
Dr Pirata Phakdeesattayaphong, a Consulting Partner for PwC Thailand, said that COVID-19 has sped up a shift to remote working, created more demand for developing new skills and stoked concerns that technology will make certain jobs obsolete.
Securing a skilled workforce after the pandemic will increasingly become a huge challenge, particularly as the Thai labour market sees a surge in demand for talent with digital, data, cybersecurity and cloud skills.
"The hiring outlook for highly skilled workers in Thailand will continue to be strong after the pandemic," Dr Pirata said. "With higher demand for talent across the digital, data, cybersecurity and cloud space, we can expect to see a fiercer, more aggressive war for talent in these areas."
"Middle- and low-skilled workers are increasingly worried automation will threaten their jobs, particularly in industries that are being disrupted by AI such as automotive, electrical appliances, electronics and even call centre agents and telesales," she said.
PwC's Hopes and Fears 2021 report polled 32,517 workers in 19 countries about how they view the world of work. Respondents included business owners, contract workers, students, unemployed people looking for work, and those on furlough or who were temporarily laid off.
The survey found that during the COVID-19 crisis people sought to adapt to new technology and take responsibility for learning. Some 40% of workers surveyed say they've improved their digital skills through prolonged periods of lockdown.
Such measures, together with social distancing, resulted in new workplace arrangements such as remote working. This trend is set to remain even after the epidemic ends.
Dr Pirata added that organisations have also prioritised "remote work skills", whether it be computer, data collection and sharing cloud files, or video conferencing and online presentations.
However, the report showed that most workers are still concerned about job security. Some 60% of respondents are worried that automation is putting jobs at risk. Another 48% believe traditional employment will disappear in the future, while 39% believe their job will be obsolete within five years.
Upskilling the Thai workforce
Dr Pirata said that during the pandemic most Thai organisations have taken a reactive, rather than proactive, approach to digital upskilling their employees.
As such, business leaders must focus on developing long-term upskilling plans. Considering what jobs are likely to be replaced by technology and what types of new jobs will emerge will help them assess the suitability of skills employees need in training programmes, she said.
"Over the past few years, Thai companies have generally been quite active in providing digital training programmes and e-learning platforms for their employees. However, as these trends suggest, businesses need to be more hands-on in improving upskilling initiatives while continuing to adjust working models to be more flexible.
"All of these will help workers to equip themselves with key skills they need to work alongside technology and automation, which will likely see exponential growth in the coming period," Dr Pirata said.
The World Economic Forum estimated that upskilling 1.37 million workers in the US will cost USD34 billion (THB1.08 trillion) ? or USD24,800 per person (THB780,000 per person). Even though the cost is exorbitant, the price of inaction will be even greater to the future of workforce development.
"Skilled labour shortage is a global issue causing millions of job positions to be unfilled today. Employers can't find the right people to do the job. This means upskilling the existing workforce ? and those about to enter the job market ? must become a priority for our leaders in both the government and private sectors.
"At a corporate level, upskilling and reskilling will give employees the opportunity to strengthen their knowledge and acquire new skills needed to do their job. It'll also help to adjust their thought process and attitudes to cope with unprecedented changes. Doing this together with developing soft skills like leadership, problem solving, and communication will help the upskilling journey for employees to be more sustainable," Dr Pirata said.
 The case for change: New world. New skills., strategy+business, PwC