Human Skills & Technical Know-How for the Future of Work

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Since the turn of the 21st century, technological advancements have started to resemble the stuff of science fiction; however, self-driving cars, robots that carry out complex tasks, and AI that accurately detects and responds to human emotion are real. Already, advances in automation are becoming a commonplace part of the labor landscape and, understandably, human workers worry about being replaced by robots and other smart machines. How much do people, especially youth preparing to launch careers, really have to fear?

In Skills Revolution 2.0—a new report from ManpowerGroup—nearly 20,000 employers across 42 countries and a range of sectors provided feedback on how they expect automation and digitalization will shape their workforce in the next two years. While the publication does not focus on youth, the findings are especially relevant for young people training to enter the job market or in the early stage of a career, as well as youth-serving organizations. Here are three key takeaways:

  • Automation could result in more jobs, not fewer. In the United States alone, which accounted for 2,000 of the employers taking part in the survey, 61 percent said that automation will have no impact on the number of staff they employ. More than a quarter (28 percent) said it will result in a hiring increase. Only 4 percent expect a decrease. Not surprisingly, some positions fared better than others—for example, administrative and office jobs are expected to show a net decrease of 6 percent, whereas positions that have a strong customer-facing component will see a net increase of 10 percent.
  • Employers highly value life skills. As the workplace becomes more automated, the importance of skills like creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and the ability to work as part of a team are in demand—and often in short supply. In fact, according to a recent article, even Elon Musk—Tesla, Inc. CEO and longtime advocate of automation—has reconsidered the necessity of human skills in the running of his factory. “Humans are underrated,” Musk tweeted, referring to a problem at Tesla that he attributes to an over-reliance on automation and lack of human oversight. An ideal employee, the Manpower Group report notes, is one who balances “human strengths with technical and digital know-how.” This line of thinking drives many IYF initiatives such as Via, Rutas, and Zangar which integrate life skills, using Passport to Success®, with market-driven, hands-on training.
  • It’s not just what you know; it’s what you can learn. Yes, employers want to hire for current skills and know-how; however, employers also understand that people likely will need to update their knowledge, probably more than once. For that reason, employers in the report identify "learnability"—a person’s willingness, enthusiasm, and capacity to acquire new skills when required—as critical. Individuals who know how to learn can more easily develop “adjacent skills” should the need arise for them to transition from one role to another. This jibes with a 2017 World Economic Forum report, Towards a Reskilling Revolution, which stressed the importance of lifelong learning and the probable scenario of employees needing to transition from one kind of job to another. Not incidentally, a growth mindset and mental elasticity also are associated with the development of life skills.

While the near-future of work will surely hold change for many employees, the report paints an overall picture that should assuage some of the anxiety. Skills Revolution 2.0 is a good reminder that what makes us human—our ability to think creatively, problem solve, and adapt—is a tremendous asset. Instead of worrying about robots in the marketplace, let’s help our youth become the best-equipped, best-prepared humans they can be.

To learn more, read Skills Revolution 2.0.

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