As she is one of the most multi-faceted experts in techniques to help solve the global skills gap, we are very pleased to announce Dr. Sheila Jagannathan as one of our moderators for the Saylor Academy Summit on Closing the Global Skills Gap.   Dr. Jagannathan is the Head of the Open Learning Campus at the World Bank in Washington DC. She serves as the organization’s focal point on digital learning and issues at the intersection of technology use and education in emerging countries.  She is a forward-thinking senior education leader with over 35 years of experience in leading capacity building, knowledge management, data, social learning and transformation change across public and private organizations. She has been responsible for designing and implementing world-class solutions in challenging global environments, resulting in performance and productivity improvements.   

Sheila also provides policy advice and technical assistance to World Bank country-level capacity building programs (both government and training institutes seeking to introduce technologies in their educational systems) in, East Asia, China, the Middle East and North Africa, Africa and South Asia.   Her current areas of interest and activity include: corporate talent management, diversity & inclusion, organizational development, enterprise learning functions, MOOCs, experiential pedagogy, online/hybrid strategies, development of rich multimodal and social learning environments, virtual and mixed reality, immersive learning, use of artificial intelligence in education, big data and learning analytics, LMS and learning ecosystems.

She is on the advisory board and planning committees of major professional associations of learning such as the Canadian Foreign Service Institute, Global Distance Learning Network, E-learning Africa, (Annual International Conference for developing E-learning capacities in Africa), International Conference on e-learning (ICEL), Skills Development Councils.

Dr. Jagannathan answered a few questions about the importance of building capacity around education and learning for international development, and how it will help solve the global skills gap. 

You can join Dr. Jagannathan at the Saylor Academy Summit on Closing the Global Skills Gap, November 14-15, 2019. Register and view other speakers on

What is an example of a “skills gap”, and what do you find are some challenges that need to be addressed?

The youth population outpacing the number of available jobs in many nations,  is an example of the skills gap and is a worrying trend. In India, for example, about 15 million youths enter the job market every year, and the number of jobs available does not match the numbers required. 

There are two challenges in particular that need to be addressed.  The first is how to bridge the skills gap in the sense that the educational system in most developing countries is not providing the skills required by industry and businesses.  A second challenge is how to build a learning ecosystem that enables these persons to acquire the required skills and learn continuously as technology continues to disrupt the workplace. 

"Two key challenges: 1.) How to bridge the skills gap in that educational systems in most developing countries are not providing skills required [for jobs]? 2.) How to build a learning ecosystem that enables people to acquire skills… Click To Tweet

Skills not taught in the traditional K to 12 curriculum, or even beyond in universities are required. 

With the advent of ubiquitous high-speed mobile internet in Low-Income Countries and Emerging Economies, more learning opportunities will be available online. Some will be self-directed, and some offered or required by employers; others will be hybrid online/real-world classes. 

How can Open Learning /OER help support the re-skilling and upskilling needed to prepare youth (and others) for jobs?

Open learning facilitates the diffusion of best practices both through institutions and individuals while breaking down barriers of affordability and accessibility. Though open learning/OER repositories, capacity building and training institutions in developing countries, get access to high-quality learning products that can be customized to local contexts. Open learning offers several advantages: being able to learn anywhere and anytime, scale-up capability across geographies and cultures cost-effectively, providing a rich library of supplementary learning materials and providing opportunities to improve quality of content through co-creation.

Tell us a bit about the Open Learning Campus at the World Bank? Why is learning important to accelerate the mission of the World Bank Group?

Learning is key to solving development challenges and to meeting the World Bank Group’s twin goals of ending poverty and building shared prosperity. Whether it is food security or pandemic outbreaks, development progress is often challenged by multiple interdependent factors. Mitigating these factors requires change that can be harnessed through continuous learning.

By providing dynamic learning opportunities where diverse audiences can learn at their own pace and access the knowledge they need, the World Bank’s learning ecosystem, the Open Learning Campus equips individuals with the knowledge and leadership capabilities to tackle the toughest development challenges. The WBG focuses on how improved learning, achieved through greater collaboration and new tools such as the Open Learning Campus, leads to more effective development at a global scale.

It seems then, that capacity building solves a “skills gap” in the ability of nations to tackle the challenges they face.  Would you elaborate on the crucial role of capacity building in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals?

Capacity development is the process by which individuals and organizations enhance their skills set, knowledge, and experiences to improve job performance and effectively respond to the new challenges from climate, fragility and so on. Achieving the SDGs is particularly challenging in sub-Saharan Africa because many countries face dual challenges:  adapting to climate change, and building institutional frameworks that respond to fragility, conflict, and violence.

Capacity building is, therefore, a multi-faceted concept: support to leadership development, build a culture promoting risk-taking, create incentives for continuous innovations, all of which contribute to robust and sustainable development.  If the SDGs are to be achieved within the next 11 years, institutional and human capacity in the least developed countries should be accelerated. Achieving the SDGs in the limited time frame available is a transformative development agenda, and requires an integrated capacity building, targeting both existing institutions and individuals working through those institutions.  Moreover, learning and capacity building about SDGs could benefit by unbundling the SDGs into more manageable units, around the three pillars of the economy,environment and society