Global Industries Need Global Skills Standards

In the workplace, “we get paid for what we do, not what we know,” but the reality is that skills are the tools that add and create visible value to a business, a community, and a country.

By Will Doherty, MBA, MA HRM, Cert Ed., MCIPD

Political change in leadership, economic downturn, austerity measures imposed, cutbacks implemented—the consequences of these actions now are starting to filter into the HR and Global Learning & Development community. We are seeing reduced spending on classroom-based training, budgets reviews, cutbacks in resources, a recruitment freeze, restructuring, doing more with less, and a “nice but not today!” response to L&D requests.

Within the Global L&D community, now more than ever is the time for stronger leadership, improved teamwork, and greater transparency. We need to show and justify why L&D or training exists and how it adds value to:

  • Governments
  • Global industries
  • Businesses
  • Individuals

This article aims to promote one theme: Global Industry Sector Standards.
Three key actions will provide a vision, strategy, and bedrock to take global training into 2020:

  1. Global Collaboration:Consolidation of industry skills standards between countries.
  2. Communication:Sharing and adoption of standards by employers, employees, and trainers.
  3. Consistency in Output.Competence and commitment, including agreement on “what a good job looks like!”

Global Business Today

To survive the downturn and retain cash flow, global business has to be more efficient and go further afield into new markets and new geographies, including BRIC, Africa, MENA, ANZ, etc. As new partnerships emerge, we see more joint ventures, strategic agreements, and a few acquisitions taking place. All of this is good practice and as a result, savings can be realized, growth continues, and jobs can be saved or created. In the workplace, “we get paid for what we do, not what we know”—a qualification that is nice, but the reality is that skills are the tools that add and create visible value to a business, a community, and a country.

Some questions we need to consider:

  • What is the global standard of skills expected for the industry or sector?

  • What is global best practice (and who determines it)?

  • How does the skill standard in one country compare with another in the same industry? Are the performance standards up to date/still relevant to the job reality?

  • Who can afford to keep their national standards up to date?

A Dose of Reality

Not all governments can financially support their sector skills councils, and not all sector skills councils are in close communication with the reality of their market, their industry, and the needs of employers and employees. The value-add and “raison d’être” for several skills councils might be in question as seen by efficiency mergers and reduced funding. What we do know and what we can agree upon: There needs to be skill standards. Most important is that they are current and fit for purpose.

Global standards should define, clarify, and communicate the performance level expected, and the skills, knowledge, and attitude required to do a job. Standards should relate and be linked to occupations in key industries. Ideally, we want standards that refer and relate to the reality of the job, skills that are used on the job and in the job. And it is critical that the job holder understands them. Standards should define competence and be linked to accreditation. They should be standards that industry, governments, employers, and employees know are realistic, relevant, pragmatic, and beneficial. So employees, wherever they are, have one program, one focus, and a common and consistent approach how to do the job.


National Skills Councils should consider evolving and transforming to become more globally integrated. Together, we can create Global Industry Standards; a forum drawn from a global consortium; and a network of industry leaders, academia, governments, employers, employees, and customers. Globally, let’s define and agree on what a good job looks like! Focus on the reality of the job not the theory. Contact me at wdwilldoherty@gmail.comand let’s form the team—together we can create the future!

Will Doherty, MBA, MA HRM, Cert Ed., MCIPD, is a training specialist with more than 20 years of international experience. He has worked in several key industries training teams in critical applications, including aviation, engineering, renewables, and oil and gas. Currently based in Dubai, he is an author, lecturer, and consultant. His vision for training is for global industries to cooperate more and work as a team to create practical skill standards that enable people to do their jobs.

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.