What is ‘global competence’, and is it the key to inclusive growth?

A level playing field, mentorship and vocational training are as important as traditional, institutional education in helping small businesses navigate the global, digitally connected economy.

I see three approaches to put this theory into practice.

A Level Playing Field

Creating the conditions of a level playing field is essential for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to grow to scale and strengthen their capacity to meet the requirements of globalized supply chains. Indeed, in many countries, SMEs are one of the main employers. In Latin America, for example, SMEs make up more than 95 percent of all businesses, and involving them in discussions about the Future of Production is crucial.

The challenge is, of course, that SMEs’ small scale limits their ability to swiftly adopt new technologies, to identify, hire, and develop a skilled workforce. However, it’s also important to lower the barriers to entry and growth. In many countries, policies still favor incumbents over new firms, reducing potential opportunities for new challengers’ impact on growth, productivity and exports. We need to look at and revise our policies to better level the playing field.

Create Alternate Paths

We need to enhance alternate paths to economic resources and development including microfinance and projects that target youth unemployment, and provide entrepreneurship education.

Rotary is working on many projects in this area.

· In the Esmeraldas Province of Ecuador, a Quito-based team of economic and sociology professionals has developed a microcredit program for 320 borrowers, helping to establish a new center to provide capacity building assistance and vocational training.

· In Colombia, Rotary clubs in the Boyacá Department support the success of local weavers, farmers, artisans and merchants through mentorship, education and financial resources — at levels comparable to traditional banking systems.

Access to economic resources and innovative financing is critical to empower SMEs’ participation in global value chains.

New Educational Approaches

We must implement new approaches for all levels — including our youth.

A 2015 World Economic Forum study called “New Vision for Education” revealed that too many students are not getting the education they need. The report identified 16 critical skills for 21st Century success. They fall into three categories — foundational core skills, competencies and character qualities.

However, in the 100 countries studied, they found large gaps for many of these skills.

In the past 50 years, the United States has seen a 50% decline in routine manual labor due to atomization and digitization while seeing an equal increase in jobs that require non-routine, analytical and interpersonal skills. In 2014, more than a third of global companies reported difficulty in filling open positions due to shortages of people with key skills.

We need to implement innovations in technology to facilitate the development of these skills. Technology can offer lower instructional costs yet an improved quality of education.

However, to be effective, technology needs to complement emerging teaching approaches such as project-based, experiential, and adaptive learning. And, it works best when tailored to a country’s unique educational challenges. It’s not one-size fits all.

New policies, new models of financing and vocational training, technology education, social and emotional learning are all essential to equip SMEs — and our youth, the workforce of tomorrow — with global competence, personal qualities and the perseverance so essential to our future.

If you enjoyed this post, please click the heart symbol to recommend it to your network.

Follow John on Twitter.