Outlook: What skills are crucial for future employment?
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Outlook: What skills are crucial for future employment?

Outlook: What skills are crucial for future employment?

The world of work is changing and developing new skills is the only way to keep pace with this change

2020 has been a year of disruption, to say the least. Almost every aspect of our lives has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, forcing us to change our way of thinking. The job market is no different – Covid-19 has unfortunately triggered one of the worst employment crises since the Great Depression.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), unemployment is projected to reach nearly 10 per cent in OECD countries by the end of 2020, up from 5.3 per cent at year-end 2019, and to go as high as 12 per cent should a second pandemic wave hit. A jobs recovery is not expected until after 2021.

The figures paint a grim picture, but they also throw up another finding – the marketplace is more competitive than ever before, and only the fittest survive. Having the right skills, therefore, is crucial to winning the race. Against this backdrop, here’s an overview of some skills that will be crucial for future employment.

Artificial intelligence – Statistics show that between 2015 and 2018, there has been almost a 100 per cent increase in job postings seeking AI or machine learning skills. You only need to look around and you will see how AI is integral to our daily lives – Uber drivers follow maps which advise them on the best route to take in order to reach their destination as quickly as possible and e-commerce websites provide shopping suggestions based on browsing history. In the future, several industries are going to be AI dependent, which means organisations are going to actively seek AI-trained talent, making it a valuable skill for the future. Interestingly, a study by leading market intelligence firm IDC states that even during the pandemic, the number of AI-related jobs could increase globally by 13 to 16 per cent.

Complex problem solving – This is not a new skill, rather it is one that will never go out of fashion. In the future, problem solving will be  all about having the mental elasticity to solve problems we may have never envisioned and coming up with solutions in a dynamic landscape. Data from the report The Future of Jobs by the World Economic Forum backs this up – 36 per cent of all jobs across all industries are expected to require complex problem – solving as one of the core skills.

Embracing change – This may be an obvious skill, but it is likely to assume far greater importance in the future. Consider this – 2020 has seen employees adjust to working remotely and switching completely to videoconferencing. Workplaces are already more diverse than ever before, and this is a trend which will continue, necessitating individuals to respect and work with others of varying race, culture, language, political or religious beliefs, etc. And we are seeing digital transformation taking over industries. All of this points to one thing – the need to embrace and accept change. Embracing change will require our brains to be flexible and cultivating this as a skill will enable us to see change not as a burden but as an opportunity to grow and innovate.

The question then which naturally comes to mind is – how does one future-proof oneself in such a dynamic world? There are several ways to pick up new skills – by learning from an expert or mentor, by shadowing a team whose skills you wish to pick up or by reading relevant literature. You could also consider doing a course or degree that will help you develop the skills that you are after. For example – Heriot-Watt University Dubai’s highly acclaimed degrees – MSc in Managing Innovation and MSc in International Marketing with Digital Marketing – can help prepare potential candidates for employment, as they are designed keeping real life requirements in mind. These programmes attract students from all around the world, creating a rich learning environment where international experience and practice is shared, and ultimately endowing students with skills to make them successful in their future workplace.

Dr. Paul Hopkinson is the associate head of Edinburgh Business School for Heriot-Watt University Dubai and academic lead for Heriot-Watt Online

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