The skills shortage faced by the micro, small and medium enterprises has a larger impact than the productivity loss suffered by individual units. A vital sector rendered uncompetitive by skills shortage would produce inefficient dynamics in the economy and militate against economic growth and market competitiveness. The government's skilling efforts, made through the National Skill Development Corporation, would prove inadequate if measures are taken up on a war footing.
This is because, the globalised economy is characterised by fast technological change and a production dynamic that is evolving towards a knowledge-centred model. This, according to a recent OECD-UN-ECLAC study, leads to an ever greater demand for human capital trained in skills related to technical aspects and to non-cognitive dimensions of learning.
Knowledge is now at the core of the economy and is vital to understanding the production dynamic and the ability to compete and innovate. Part of the business world is moving towards new sectors and new working arrangements, making increasingly intensive use of new technologies in their production processes.
However, many small and medium-sized enterprises are limited by their management’s inability to lead processes of development, technology adoption, innovation, and expansion into new sectors and markets.
The skills gap in management skills and business leadership is more ominous than the gap in technical skills, which are easier to build up and impart. The gap in soft skills—including aspects such as critical thinking, teamwork, problem-solving and change management, oral and written communication, responsibility at work, or the capacity to adapt to new environments—is also daunting.
Often businesses’ demand for skills adapts to the skills’ limited supply, meaning investment decisions are adopted based on the limited availability of human capital. This would constitute a barrier to growth and limit expansion of productivity, especially since the sectors that would be adapting to the shortage are precisely those most connected to the global economy and with greater growth potential.
Though the study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, titled Latin American Economic Outlook 2013: SME polices for structural change is limited to the issues of