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Predicting the New Skills We'll Need for Work Requires a Crystal Ball

4 minute read
Karen Lachtanski avatar
The rate of technology advancements is happening at an unprecedented rate and is outpacing skill sets.

What did you want to be when you grew up? The typical answers when I was growing up included: doctor, lawyer, astronaut, firefighter, teacher or perhaps baseball player. No one ever said data scientist, cybersecurity analyst or cloud data manager. Yet these are the types of jobs in high demand today.

Typically, as demand in one type of job increases, graduates gravitate towards those professions. Over time, as one demand becomes filled, things shift to a new demand. Now however, technology advancements are outpacing the availability of skilled workers, according to the World Economic Forum 2018 report. High employment rate notwithstanding, employers are having difficulty filling jobs because the desired skills are not available — and how could they be? The job functions are new. How many people have years of experience in artificial intelligence (AI), for example? By the time today’s college entrants graduate, the skill sets they've acquired are already outdated. College students should be handed a crystal ball on the first day of classes to predict what skills will be needed by the time they enter the workforce.

Related Article: Hiring Alone Won't Solve Your IT Talent Shortage

Learning to Keep Up With a Fast-Paced Technological Climate

Large companies, such as SAP North America, report a major uptick in the use of digital technology in the workplace. This includes machine learning, AI and analytics, which are being used across all departments, not just R&D. Employers are scrambling to find talent. According to IT industry surveys by IDC, 70 percent of employers are having difficulty sourcing digital talent, to address this 61 percent are hiring new talent and 57 percent are attempting to retrain their existing workforce.

Meanwhile, people entering the workforce have different expectations. Our parents and grandparents typically had 25- to 30-year anniversaries with their employer, but today’s worker job hops on a regular basis. To address this, employers are investing in employee retainment programs and workspace improvement (for example, rethinking open floor plans and discovering they're not such a great idea after all). It is a great time to experiment with shared jobs, remote working and more sophisticated collaboration tools.

Technology has also had an impact on those traditional jobs. Law services are now outsourced or handled online. Doctors are delivering hospital bedside instruction or diagnosis by telepresence. It seems the only professions safe from impact are those that require physical work such as plumbers and electricians. Even the crystal ball may be replaced by an AI bot.

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: 3 Steps to Gear Up for AI and the Future of Work

What Can Job Seekers Do?

What can an aspiring graduate or seasoned worker do in such a fast-paced technological climate?

  • Be flexible. Understand that your college course of study may not be directly applicable by the time you graduate. However, the skills you learn can be adapted.
  • Find ways to continue to learn. Whether offered by your employer or on your own, make it a point to include continuing education a part of your professional career. Thanks to technology there are multiple online choices and many companies offer educational courses for employees.
  • Be a digital native. Embrace technology and share your learnings with co-workers. In my company we have started a lunch and learn program. Anyone can share what they have learned on any topic.
  • Stay positive. It is easy to join in the bemoaning of outsourcing and the perceived loss of jobs due to automation. While we do not have the ‘right’ to have a job, it is in your own hands to be aware of what is happening in your chosen industry and plan accordingly.
  • See change as a growing experience. Staying in one’s profession for years can limit your perspective. Or, if you have only worked for a US-based company, try working for a company that is headquartered outside of the US with a local subsidiary. Not only is the change a breath of fresh air, it can open you up to new possibilities.
  • Be visible outside of your company. LinkedIn is a great source for following people who interest you. Don’t hesitate to comment or post your own thoughts. It’s also easy to find local meetups on just about any topic. Make it a habit to attend a few.

The rate of technology advancements leads to many positive impacts on our personal lives. We, as consumers, are usually quick to obtain the latest devices and use the latest services. In our professional lives however, we tend to put up a barrier to change.

As the pace of change is likely to continue or even increase, our appetite for learning new skills must also keep pace.

About the author

Karen Lachtanski

Karen Lachtanski is the Global Communications Director at Y Soft. She is a work-from-home professional shaping content marketing, public and analyst relations initiatives.