Preparing For The Jobs Of The Future

21 Aug 2019 | 08.32 am

Preparing For The Jobs Of The Future

Steven Roberts on the importance of life-long learning

21 Aug 2019 | 08.32 am

Soft and transferable skills will remain of prime importance in the new economy, and need to be updated throughout our working lives, writes Steven Roberts.

The world of work is rapidly changing, posing substantial challenges for current and future generations of workers. The World Economic Forum advises that two-thirds  of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in job types that don’t yet exist. As government agencies, research institutes and think tanks try to forecast the future, it is timely to take a look at some of the most likely trends and how employees can best prepare to face them.

The impact of automation

Technological advances, particularly in the area of artificial intelligence (AI), will lead to increasing levels of automation. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known in Europe as Work 4.0, includes developments in fields such as machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, genetics and biotechnology.

This will have an impact on a wide range of job sectors. An article in Fortune magazine earlier this year advised that automation could replace up to 40% of jobs within fifteen years. Roles or tasks requiring significant levels of repetition are most likely to be affected.

This has not gone unnoticed by younger generations. A recent report from Deloitte indicated that 40% of millennials believe automation will threaten their jobs, while 51% believe they will need to retrain.

The importance of life-long learning

It is a challenging environment for parents, students and those currently in employment. They must try to predict how best to future proof their own careers or those of their loved ones. One only has to look at some of the most popular current job titles – for example social media managers, user experience designers, app developers and SEO specialists – to realise that these jobs did not exist ten or fifteen years ago.

As another example, we are seeing rapid growth in the areas of cyber security, privacy and data protection. Some experts predict up to 75,000 new data protection officer jobs will be created as a result of last year’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), with further legislation in the pipeline.

One of the best ways to adapt is a commitment to continued, life-long education. The European Commission advises that skills continue to be the best guarantor of social mobility and opportunity. However, it is quick to point out that skills are not static. They need to be updated throughout our working lives and will be critical to the transitions modern workers will be required to undertake throughout their careers.

Soft and transferable skills

Soft and transferable skills will remain of prime importance in the new economy. The government’s Future Jobs Ireland 2019 report advises that aptitudes in areas such as communication, organisational skills and self-motivation are key. These are not typically considered as specifically related to a particular job, task or area of knowledge.

As such, they can provide a vital link when changing career or industry sector. The report also highlights the importance of creativity. Emotional intelligence competencies are some of the most difficult to replicate via automation and robotics technology. They remain a distinctly human advantage.

What steps can you take?

There are a number of practical steps that can be taken by individuals in response to these forecasts. Firstly, they should undertake an audit of their current technical skillset. Are there areas that require further development if they wish to progress in their career? Are there knowledge gaps that might prevent easy movement within industry sectors? What skills does their industry predict will be required in the next 3 – 5 years?

Secondly, they must examine their soft skills and competencies. One useful way of undertaking this analysis is psychometric testing. Are there areas that need to be improved? For example, someone in marketing and sales may wish to improve their communications or public speaking ability if that is an important aspect of their role. A recently promoted manager may wish to assess their ability to lead and direct teams – such aptitudes might include decisiveness, listening and delegation.

For employers, it is important that a commitment to transferable, soft skills is built into any training and development programmes. This helps ensure a flexible and adaptable workforce where employees are well prepared to respond to changing industry demands.

Summary

It is impossible to predict the future with exactitude. Many have tried and failed. However, what is not in question is the level of change current and future generations of workers will face. Technology is advancing at a rapid pace. As artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and other elements of Work 4.0 are introduced by businesses across multiple industry sectors, workers who are committed to continual upskilling will be best placed to adapt.

Companies and professionals who make this commitment, and who recognise the importance of transferable skills, will be most likely to survive and thrive in the new economy.

Steven Roberts is head of marketing at Griffith College. A certified data protection officer and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, he writes on data protection, strategy and marketing. He is a member of IBEC’s digital economy policy committee and the ACOI’s data protection and information security working group. For more on the Future of Work, visit griffith.ie.

 

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