Work-based learning for inclusive and sustainable workforces

On 21-22 November, the GAN participated in the 2019 ILO Global Business and Disability Network (GBDN) conference at the ILO headquarters. The GBDN is an alliance of companies, national disability networks and civil society organizations that aims to create a global workforce culture that is respectful and welcoming of persons with disabilities. Its goal is to ensure that employment policies and practices are inclusive and accessible for all persons with disabilities.

This year’s conference was particularly powerful, with more than 300 participants and over 70 speakers, from all over the world - many representing business. This is a stark reminder that as we approach the 2030 SDGs – no one is to be left behind.

Through the sharing of experiences and best practices, the GBDN gathers knowledge and expertise that is disseminated among its members. The 2019 “Making the Future of Work inclusive of persons with disabilities” conference opened with the launch of a joint publication by Fundación ONCE and the GBDN, developed within the framework of the Disability Hub Europe, a project led by Fundación ONCE and co-funded by the European Social Fund.

This joint publication highlights lifelong learning as key to inclusiveness especially in context the future of work. We must therefore strive to be truly inclusive of all groups, as part of a shared and societal responsibility, contributing to the achievement of international commitments and pledges linked to the UN Agenda 2030. 

At the GBDN conference, the human rights-based approach towards persons with disabilities reflected in the SDGs was clearly aligned with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD monitoring Committee was represented by the expert Dr. László Lovászy who has invited all attendees – with businesses strongly motivated – to provide inputs to the CRPD to further develop the interpretation of article 27 of the Convention, which focuses on the right to employment. The ILO and the CRPD will work together throughout 2020 to define a common position on the issue and convene a General Discussion Day for public and multi-stakeholder dialogue.

The GAN will explore how to collaborate with all interested parties highlighting how inclusive and accessible work-based learning is key to forge an agile skilled talent and to prepare for full disability inclusion in any road map regarding the Future of Work. This was also strengthened by Nazrene Mannie, GAN Executive Director, on the occasion of the parallel session “Discussing a road map to a more disability inclusive future of work.”

Ms Mannie also participated as keynote speaker for the session on “Targeted initiatives to provide digital skills to persons with disabilities,” where the focus was on digital skilling, technology as an enabler, and the need to ensure quality of training and certifications that allow mobility for a skilled workforce. We learned how partnering with others is essential to build a sustainable future of work, and also about Fundación ONCE training initiatives, the CISCO Networking Academy, and the ILO Digital Skills for Decent Jobs for Youth campaign. On behalf of the GAN, Ms Mannie gave insights on how work-based learning skilling, upskilling and reskilling initiatives can be valuable pathways to transition and career growth and a response to today's challenges and market demand, while being inclusive of persons with disabilities. One specific example was later shared in a GAN-organized session on the second day of the conference with the participation of Accenture Spain and GAN Head of Strategic Partnership and Development, Kathleen Elsig.

Jesús M Rodríguez Prieto, Accessibility Program Lead at Accenture Spain, presented Accenture’s holistic approach to inclusion and accessibility and the steps the company is taking toward real and lasting change. Accenture believes that top level executives have a powerful role to play in ensuring inclusion in their team with the support of accessibility compatibilities infused with technology solutions across the entire company ecosystem.

Most importantly, this event highlighted the need to continuously shed light on the business case for disability inclusion in the workplace. As part of its awareness raising and advocacy work, this year the GBDN has launched its #invalidopinions campaign that defies disability stereotypes and misconceptions. This campaign will also allow for continuous debate and advocacy around this important topic, so the conversation doesn’t end here.