Companies today are in the process of rapidly realigning what the market is looking for them to create with the work force skills they have on hand. As new technologies pushes at the boundaries and the barriers of previous innovation, the skillsets are evolving and teams are breaking out of silos and seeming more hybrid.
According to the World Economic Forum, “we are at the beginning of a Fourth Industrial Revolution. Developments in genetics, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and biotechnology, to name just a few, are all building on and amplifying one another. This will lay the foundation for a revolution more comprehensive and all-encompassing than anything we have ever seen. Smart systems—homes, factories, farms, grids or cities—will help tackle problems ranging from supply chain management to climate change. The rise of the sharing economy will allow people to monetize everything from their empty house to their car.
While the impending change holds great promise, the patterns of consumption, production and employment created by it also pose major challenges requiring proactive adaptation by corporations, governments and individuals. Concurrent to the technological revolution are a set of broader socio-economic, geopolitical and demographic drivers of change, each interacting in multiple directions and intensifying one another.
As entire industries adjust, most occupations are undergoing a fundamental transformation. While some jobs are threatened by redundancy and others grow rapidly, existing jobs are also going through a change in the skill sets required to do them. The debate on these transformations is often polarized between those who foresee limitless new opportunities and those that foresee massive dislocation of jobs. In fact, the reality is highly specific to the industry, region and occupation in question as well as the ability of various stakeholders to manage change.”
As we look into the horizon, it is easy to take the tried and tested approach which is to take the purist route that traditional education has always prescribed. Students typically arrived at the crossroads in the seventh grade and were told to choose a vocational direction. This would either push them down a path that had little room for exploration. But the next wave is far from an A or B option. You don’t have to choose door number 1, 2 or 3. Today’s digital natives are creating across multiple platforms and unlike previous generations they have also come to expect that the interface and the experience will give them the flexibility to innovate.
Having said that, technology is a language that cannot be feared. Like speaking in English or Spanish or Chinese gives you a superior advantage in America or China, learning the fundamentals is important to operate in a business environment.
However the soft skills gap is also widening. The tech start up culture is one of rewarding the brilliant few and ignoring the valiant many. It has also spawned an entire workforce of loners.
According to the World Economic Forum, complex problem solving is top of the list followed by critical thinking and creativity. As the future gets more automated and the human is relieved of the more manual and repetitive work, we are going to be required to navigate the workplace which will include managing man and machines. Becoming comfortable with uncertainty, ambiguity and speed will require greater emotional intelligence and cognitive flexibility.
To meet the future, we have to prepare in the present.
“Students need to be exposed to various career pathways, including apprenticeships, certificates, and two-year degree programs that better align with their career aspirations and workforce needs. Companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook are focusing more on whether a candidate has hard skills than if a candidate has a degree.” [Forbes, Feb 5, 2018 ]