The world of work is changing faster and more drastically than at any other time in recent history. According to research by the World Economic Forum, 35% of the skills necessary to thrive in a job today will be different five years from now.
How can you prepare for a workplace of the future if we’re not quite sure what it will look like? What types of skills and expertise should young people focus on acquiring today if they want to succeed tomorrow?
Advancement in technology won’t bring a shortage of jobs but – if we don’t take the right steps – there could be a shortage of skilled talent to take these jobs. The deal is that, no matter how much the world of work changes, some skillsets will continue to remain highly relevant and important. Let’s have a look at some of the 5 important types of skills you need to compete favorably today and in the near future according to global leaders. Before we get to it, be sure to subscribe to After School Africa for more insightful videos like this.
1. Soft skills
According to Esteban Bullrich, former Minister of Education, Argentina, “A child today can expect to change jobs at least seven times over the course of their lives – and five of those jobs don’t exist yet”.
To better understand the skills needed in the jobs of the future, Argentina conducted a country-wide survey of almost 900 companies. The results confirmed that soft skills – such as teamwork, knowledge of digital tools, an understanding of rules and regulations, responsibility, and commitment – are the most relevant for the future. In fact, according to a new study by WEF, jobs that require high cognitive and people skills are generally less sensitive to recessions than academic qualifications. In other words, people who have these soft skills recover faster from economic crises than everyone else.
To teach children these skills, future-centric countries have begun to revolutionize their education curriculum to ensure students are taught across all subjects. Some have introduced innovative classes like coding and entrepreneurship. As a young adult, you need to continue developing these soft skills through training programs and self-education. We have long past the era where you have to rely on what you learned in school. You must continue learning.
2. Data literacy skill
We’ve entered a golden era of data. Data is becoming every business’s most important asset. In every industry, companies are amassing more data than ever. Retailers micro-inspect our purchasing history, airlines measure why flights are on time, and just about every service call, email, and interaction is tracked. The benefit of all this data is that companies can figure out how to better solve customer needs, improve their services and operations, and make better decisions about the talent they hire.
With low-cost cloud-based systems, enterprises of all sizes can now generate a sea of data. But while we have all this data, there’s still a big problem at hand: Most of us are not very good at interpreting and making sense of it. Some companies now have data science and digital academies that are focused on helping employees in all disciplines learn how to analyze data. This goes to show how important data literacy has become.
Over the last five to 10 years, the data skills we need have evolved. In the early days of data science, companies wanted skills in SQL, data extraction, information normalization, and technologies like parallel processing, big data analysis, and R programming language. Today, research from IBM indicates that many of these technologies are embedded into data platforms, so companies are looking for different skills. Not only do business people need to understand the nature of these data systems and how they work, but they also need to understand how to create sound data governance, privacy, security, and trust. Companies need more people with the ability to interpret data, draw insights, and ask the right questions. These are skills that anyone can develop, and there are now many ways for individuals to upskill themselves.
3. Digital Literacy Skills
Digital literacy means having the skills you need to live, learn, and work in a society where communication and access to information are increasingly through digital technologies like internet platforms, social media, and mobile devices.
While speaking at a digital conference last year, I was dumbfounded to learn that majority of people in the audience – all working-class adults – don’t have any idea how businesses like Facebook, Google, and online blogs works and make money. The majority of people are just consumers of digital technology. But if you want to compete favorably today and in the future, you must develop digital literacy skills. You have to understand how search engines, social media platforms, online forums, email, Chatbots, web analytics, and all these other digital technology tools work. As businesses are embracing remote work, the ability to use digital collaboration tools is also increasingly important.
Businesses need people with practical skills in using digital technology tools to access, manage, analyze, create and distribute information. Digital literacy skill is a continual learning process because of constant new applications, but your future self will thank you if you keep your digital skills up to date!
4. Transferable skills
Who could have conceived two decades ago that there would be a whole new industry in search engine optimization or social media influencers? Transferable skills are skills that can be transferred from one job to another like critical thinking, adaptability, emotional intelligence and creativity. These are strong human character traits that even artificial intelligence can’t replace.
There’s no shortage of information and data. What is in short supply are people with the ability to discern what information is trustworthy in the sea of information. And this will be critical to an organization’s success. One of the most important skills for the workforce of the future will be critical thinking. Critical thinking is about objectively evaluating information and how it should be used or even if it should be trusted. Given how much “noise” it is due to easy connectivity and digital technologies, professionals must be able to sieve through huge volumes of data to establish which information is most relevant – and to make quick decisions based on this.
Also, as quickly as the world is changing, the half-life of skills is constantly reducing. People need to commit to learning new skills throughout their careers and be adaptable to change. Important to this is understanding that what worked yesterday isn’t necessarily the best strategy for tomorrow. So openness to unlearning skills is also important.
Adaptability is another crucial skill. The challenges organizations face are more complex than in the past. Specializations will no longer be enough to solve key problems. A person’s capacity to apply concepts, ideas and problem-solving techniques across different sectors will determine whether or not they’ll thrive in the future workplace.
5. Entrepreneurial Skills
Most people often think that entrepreneurial skills are only required if you intend to become an entrepreneur and set up your own business as a graduate. But forward-thinking employers desire an entrepreneurial mindset in their core team members. In fact, having an entrepreneurial mindset is an important trait to succeed in the workplace.
Being enterprising and entrepreneurial involves the ability to spot an unexploited opportunities and making the best of them. It is the ability to identify a gap and taking the initiative to fill it. However, it can also be about trying something new or improving a process to increase efficiency or results.
People with entrepreneurial skills are assets to the organization they work with. You can showcase your strengths in this area by demonstrating the capacity for working independently, taking initiative, finishing what you start, and thinking originally, as well as sound business sense.
Also, businesses of today are designed to encourage people to come up with new ideas and be a part of bringing their idea to life. People with entrepreneurial skills are well prepared to compete favorably today and in the future.
To stay relevant and competitive, you need to develop soft skills, transferable skills, data, digital and entrepreneurial skills.
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