Harnessing Innovation: Belarusian Organizations Discuss the Future of Jobs

Digitalization and technological advancement are rapidly reshaping the labor market. The representatives of more than 50 companies and educational institutions have discussed how vocational jobs and skills would evolve over the next 10 years.

April 18, 2024

Innovation is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and drives economic growth, job creation, and creative fulfilment for all.

Photo credit: UNDP in Belarus

The deepening integration of modern technologies brings extensive changes in the nature of the industrial workplace, demanding a new set of skills and knowledge from employees on all levels: from managers to workers. The economic transformation poses an additional challenge for the vocational education system which is tasked with training the future workforce.

In February-March 2024, the Republican Institute of Vocational Education, supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Belarus held three foresight sessions exploring the emerging technologies and mapping their impact on vocational professions. 

The strategic sessions engaged more than 70 representatives of enterprises and vocational education institutions from all over the country.

Photo credit: UNDP in Belarus

The foresight sessions were conducted within the Developing Youth Innovation Potential for Accelerated Sustainable Development in Belarus project implemented by UNDP in Belarus. Each event was dedicated to one of the project’s pilot industries: agriculture, machinery manufacturing, and construction.

These traditional sectors play an important socio-economic role, collectively providing employment to over 800,000 people, or 18% of the total workforce in Belarus. While agriculture products and machinery form the country’s exports, the construction sector is showing one of the highest growth rates, adding increasing value to the country’s GDP. Thus, meeting the demand for qualified labor in these industries is key to ensuring sustainable economic development.

Key trends and skills of the future

In order to understand what professions and competencies will be in high demand in the future, the participants first mapped major technologies that would disrupt the selected industries the most.

The main trends identified in all the three sectors roughly correspond to the global ones: digitalization, robotization, and automation. At the same time, many participants noted the growing interest of Belarusian companies in introducing green technologies to agriculture, mechanical engineering, and construction.

Technological change will decrease the need for manual labor, while the demand for social, emotional, and higher cognitive skills is expected to rise.

Photo credit: UNDP in Belarus

Consequently, the workers will have to develop proficiency in computer programs and master the basics of algorithms and modelling to effectively manage robots and automated systems.

At the same time, soft skills will become increasingly important. Strong analytical skills, decision-making capabilities, and developed critical thinking will be crucial for quickly adapting to a constantly changing working environment.

New professions and gender equality 

Many participants noted that the introduction of innovative technologies will improve the gender imbalance in all three industries.

Photo credit: UNDP in Belarus
"Driven by science, industries are becoming increasingly automated. Assisted by modern equipment, workers will be performing less and less hard manual labor. This will attract not only male but also female employees into heavy industries. Many gender differences in work performance will soon disappear."
Aleksey Gavris, Head of the Innovations and New Materials Bureau at Atlant CJSC

Currently, women and girls account for only 20,3% of students studying engineering, manufacturing, and construction in Belarus. However, the decreasing importance of hard manual labor will provide women with more opportunities for professional and academic fulfilment in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 

Production optimization and shortage of qualified personnel

Another factor that will influence employment in all three sectors, as identified during the discussions, is demographic change. Belarus experienced a decline in the number of people employed by 477,000 over the 2012-2022 period. The accelerating population aging and urbanization are significantly contributing to the shortage of labor. Innovations offer a solution to the problem, increasing the efficiency of the production process and optimizing the labor cost.

At the same time, according to the participants, it is important to adapt the education process to the changing needs of employers. Thus, short-term professional courses and reskilling programs for adults could become instrumental in teaching the in-demand competencies. Against the backdrop of a gradual increase in the average age of the population, the relevance of lifelong learning is becoming apparent.

The results

The rapid foresight method used at the strategic sessions ensured active participation of all parties engaged.

Photo credit: UNDP in Belarus

The chosen format enabled a productive dialogue between the employers and the educational institutions that train the future employees. Such cooperation will subsequently improve the learning process and allow students to better prepare for their future jobs. 

The foresight sessions resulted in five new professions being identified for each industry. Additionally, the participants defined competencies that the employees would need to succeed in those jobs.

The findings became part of a wider study of the emerging professions and skills in the pilot sectors. The results of the study will help the vocational education institutions to review the training programs in the fields of agriculture, mechanical engineering, and construction. Later on, it may be used to update the professional and educational standards in the country or developing the new ones.

The Developing Youth Innovation Potential for Accelerated Sustainable Development in Belarus project is implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Belarus in partnership with the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Belarus and is funded by the Russian Federation.