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Going Soft on Skills Development

Future Workforce
21 Jobs of the Future
Artificial Intelligence

Going Soft on Skills Development

I recently had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the 2018 Lerchendal Konferansen in Trondheim, Norway. Whilst this event...

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I recently had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the 2018 Lerchendal Konferansen in Trondheim, Norway. Whilst this event focused on research and innovation initiatives, much of the discussion centred on education as well as skills and behaviours needed to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution. As expected much of this discussion focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, or the STEM subjects. But there is a growing voice emerging that challenges that pure STEM-based learning will be sufficient moving forward. Because, while STEM qualifications will bread our new squadrons of technical wizardry, we will still be needing human-centred leaders and collaborators to build teams, manager partnerships and relate to customers. Therefore soft skills will become a core component of what organizations will look for in their present and future workforces, and this needs to be a call to action for tertiary educators to adapt to remain relevant.

This hotly debated topic elicits emotional responses from educators, business execs and students alike. In the Center for the Future of Work, this is a topic we also often discuss and with our recently published study: 21 Jobs of the Future we believe we have some sort of idea on what these soft skills will look like. In the future, it’ll be underlying skillsets and behaviours that will make an individual employable for an entire career, in combination with relevant qualifications. This will be especially true as we see roles and job functions continuously change due to the influence of artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.

So here are three behavioural qualities that will be vital for the future:

  • Self-awareness of our present: The ability to appreciate, identify, and analyst current economic, socio-economic, political and technological environments will prove vital. Workers will now need to be acutely aware of these changing dynamics in order to manage lifetime learning objectives and maintain reputation and integrity in an increasingly complex world. Also as the application of technology brings us closer together, the ability to work with cross-cultural teams becomes critical.
  • Empathy: The overarching message coming out of big corporate today is that we need greater emphasis on STEM subjects to adequately prepare workers for industry 4.0. and yes, these will be vital qualifications moving forward but ultimately we are heading towards a future where our rote tasks are largely automated away and what is left is vital work between colleagues, partners and customers to create new value. This requires collaboration, and in an environment of collaboration, empathy is key.
  • Personal change accelerators: Workers flexibility in their careers will be critical. The age of the study, work-your-way-up-the-corporate-ladder and retire worker, is dying. Today, and in the future, workers will be personally responsible with curating their own careers to keep themselves relevant. Continuously focusing on personal development and cross-role opportunities will make this happen.

Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but workers that embody these three behaviours will be significantly more likely to weather the digital disruption that artificial intelligence and technological innovations will bring to the job market.

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