Over two-thirds of relevant skills will change in the next five years. According to the World Economic Forum, a third of the essential skills in 2025 will consist of technology competencies that are not crucial to today’s job requirements.
Industry 4.0 is revolutionizing manufacturing processes, and the massive disruption has already led to a change in skills requirements.
In the future, experts say the workforce needs retraining and adaptation. As part of their plan to prepare for the future of work, about 34% of HR leaders are investing in workforce training and reskilling.
At the Fast Company Middle East World Changing Ideas Summit, leaders discussed the workforce’s ability to adapt and succeed throughout their careers and how flexibility, self-awareness, curiosity, active learning, empathy, and digital skills are the top job skills for the future workforce.
A WORKFORCE THAT COMBINES HUMANS AND MACHINES
“Disruption is a new way of doing business. And we’re really in a catch-up race. By the time we do the homework, we’re ready for the next technology,” says Yousef Khalili, senior vice president of professional services at Tonomus.
“It has been a very interesting time, but it has its impact on how we plan, execute, and graduate and incubate talent,” Khalili adds.
According to experts, hybrid Intelligence, which combines humans and AI, will be a dominant workplace model in the future to collectively achieve superior results and learn from each other.
However, experts warn that organizations must not become overly concentrated on technology and neglect to invest in the necessary human resources. “Investing in technology without investing in people is a losing cause, and you need people to use the technology alongside you,” says Dr Sonia Ben Jaafar, chief executive officer at Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education.
Experts say that talent needs to be helped more through this transformational time, and we must invest in technology and human capital. It is more than just upskilling. A future-ready organization must prioritize its people’s development and be deeply rooted in a culture of continuous, lifelong learning.
“It is about giving them support to make the transition, to know that they’re going to continue learning, and to know that it is not just about a skill that’s going to be outdated in five years. It is about the ability to learn the skill and create the new skill later on for themselves and their team,” adds Dr Jaafar.
According to experts, technology is not taking away human jobs; it’s ensuring humans have the necessary abilities. “On the one hand, technology makes our lives easier with chatbots and eliminates tasks that machines could complete quickly. On the other hand, we can truly upskill through technology and guarantee that people complete the exciting, creative tasks,” says Sabine Holl, chief technology officer – MEA, IBM.
For example, IBM started using AI years ago to analyze the skills of the workforce and how it can create a tailor-fit enablement program for employees to grow, stay relevant, and make lifelong learning exciting.
One of the major examples of using technology to learn is through gamification because, according to Holl, attending a classroom is no longer the norm, and there is a clear need to make learning engaging, enjoyable, and competitive.
CHANGING THE EDUCATION SYSTEM
According to an IT report, there are still 2.7 billion people on the planet who still need access to the Internet. The report published by The Economist, Narrowing the Digital Divide, says that for every 10% increase in school connectivity, a country’s GDP rises by 1%. And for the poorest countries, every increase in school connectivity raises GDP by 20%.
Hence, according to Amna Usman Chaudhry, UNICEF Consultant with Giga blockchain, Metaverse and Web 3.0 team, if you want to focus on the workforce, it is very important for “government companies from a micro level and a macro level to start from the very basics of connectivity.”
Governments throughout the Middle East are trying to equip workers for the future. For instance, the Education and Training Evaluation Commission in Saudi Arabia launched an initiative for lifelong learning opportunities to create a solid and flexible foundation for everyone to keep up with labor market demands.
The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology in Saudi Arabia also started a training program to speed up digitization. Similarly , the UAE government and LinkedIn collaborated on a project to upskill Emirati women.
It is about connecting the unconnected, which requires restructuring the education system. For instance, Dr Ray O. Johnson, chief executive officer at Technology Innovation Institute and ASPIRE, says we need to make some changes at the college level. “At the undergraduate level, we need a broad foundational education. Because of the specialization mandate, some broad foundational education has suffered. People are specializing very early,”
Similarly, he says, “focusing the purpose of a Master’s degree should be to teach you how to conduct independent research. And the purpose of a Ph.D. should be to conduct unique independent research.”
“People do specializations a little early, but that can haunt them later because those skills will change in a few years. Overspecialization is a risk as the skills that are a fad will change tomorrow,” Dr Johnson adds.
According to the experts, this is important because the job one does in 20 years may be very different from the one they started doing when they left college. Hence, companies need to build long-term partnerships with students. And to do that, it is important to start by restructuring the education system.
ENSURING DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION
While talking about the importance of learning, experts point out that it is significant for organizations to include diversity, equity, and inclusion to attract and retain talent. Diverse teams consistently outperform non-diverse teams. There was a 56.3% increase in jobs related to diversity, inclusion, and belonging between September 2019 and September 2020.
“There is a direct correlation between inequality and connectivity. When it comes to the gender divide, four out of five women don’t have connectivity in the least developed countries. Companies need to support at both micro and macro level,” says Chaudhry.
Experts say a diverse environment drives innovation and creativity because different ways of thinking come together. However, Holl says, “When we talk about having women in the STEM field, it requires an extra effort, and a lot of people don’t do that as you will not find more women in STEM. It is important to understand that If you are creating solutions, you need diversity.”
“We have half the planet’s made up of females. So we want to include everyone. Diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and cultures is important to driving innovation,” Dr Johnson adds.
Experts believe organizations with diverse, equitable, and inclusive cultures generate more revenue, experience reduced staff turnover, and have happier staff members who are more productive, creative, and adept at making decisions.
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