So, how can we prepare for this? Other than striking gold or founding a unicorn, the answer is to refine the skills we have and grow the skills we don’t. Though there is some disagreement about what the jobs of the future will look like (see our previous blog post), experts generally agree that the most important skills will be interpersonal skills and STEM skills.
A paper written by legendary economist James Heckman makes an excellent case for placing more emphasis on ‘character skills’ such as sociability, perseverance and curiosity. These skills are highly valued by employers and relate to an employees’ ability to adapt to new situations and acquire new skills. Character is a skill, not a trait, Heckman says, and teaching it is both lasting and cost-effective.
In healthcare, for example, caregiving skills will be particularly important. Though we already use telemedicine and robotic surgical tools, long life expectancies coupled with the need for soft skills ensures caregiving will remain a growing industry.
Social intelligence, critical thinking and problem solving are equally important. Where computers focus on answering questions, humans need to focus on asking them — and asking the right ones. This emphasis on interpersonal skills and creativity thinking makes being human an actual skill in and of itself.
In addition to these interpersonal skills, STEM skills will be crucial. By 2030, it is predicted that workers will use mathematics and science 80 per cent more than they do today, and advance technology skills will be used 75 per cent more.
A good place to start is to think about areas within your industry that require a niche skill set, and then develop it. This may be through an online course, university or even through your company. And, once you begin learning new skills, don’t stop.
But it’s not all on the individual; educational institutions, governments and businesses need to work together to bridge the gap between training and the workplace. Together, they need to ensure young people are equipped with the skills and capabilities they need to be employable, and those who are already in the workforce need support and incentives for lifelong learning. As the World Economic Forum aptly points out, without urgent and targeted action to build a workforce with future-proof skills, governments will have to deal with ever-growing unemployment and inequality (and this will inevitably be more expensive in the long run).