Building skills now for the future job market
Unemployment and job creation are global priorities, as all countries are facing challenges on a number of different levels.
The MENA region – among others – is struggling to provide its youth with the skills necessary for employment. The International Labor Organization claims that, in the MENA region alone, cutting unemployment by 50 percent will reinforce economic growth by $25 billion in 2018.
Many of the jobs that are highly demanded today did not exist 10 years ago. One couldn’t have imagined jobs like social media expert, mobile application developer or robotics technician.
The progress we’ve made in genetics, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology and 3D printing among other fields will change the job landscape for years to come. Imagine: What jobs will our children be doing when they grow up? And are today’s classrooms preparing them well for the future market?
The World Economic Forum’s report “The Future of Jobs” in 2017 indicates that 65 percent of children today will end up in careers that don’t exist. Moreover, based on current trends, the WEF estimates that, “By 2030, more than half of the world’s school-age children, some 800 million kids, will lack the basic skills needed to thrive or secure a job in the workplace of the future.”
Reports claim that up to half of the world’s jobs – around 2 billion – are likely to vanish entirely due to rapid high-tech advancements (such as automation) in the coming decades.
A report published by Dell Technologies in 2017 estimates that “85 percent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet,” stating that “the ability to gain new knowledge will be more valuable than the knowledge itself.”
While the United Nations highlights the need to create 470 million jobs for youth entering the workforce between 2016 and 2030, McKinsey Global Institute claims robots could replace 800 million jobs by 2030.
In collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group, the WEF’s “Toward a Reskilling Revolution: A Future of Jobs for All” report is based on data-driven approach analyzing 1,000 jobs in the U.S. economy. The report finds that, in the U.S. alone, 1.4 million jobs will be affected by technology from now till 2026.
Looking into the gender dynamics, it claims that 57 percent of these 1.4 million jobs belong to women. On a positive note, the report states that if a suitable reskilling process takes place, 95 percent of the threats facing these jobs will be alleviated. Otherwise, without reskilling, only 2 percent of workers will have the chance to shift to new jobs.
With rapid advancements on both the social and technological fronts, job descriptions and skill profiles are changing significantly, impacting employment at a pace that is expected to accelerate. The challenges vary from job creation to job placement, and show there is a big skill gap.
Being aware of the challenge isn’t enough. Action is needed.
Several surveys today that engage with big industries on the future job market aim at encouraging adaptive actions shaped by risks and opportunities.
To answer the challenges of today, changes to companies’ business models should be accompanied by outcome-oriented models for education and training.
There’s no shortage of advice on this – there have been many attempts to define skills needed for the future job market, such as life skills, soft skills, hybrid skills or “timeless skills” – essential for students to adapt to an ever-changing environment.
In a survey conducted by the WEF, executives from some of the world’s leading companies were asked about what they think would be an important job skill in 2020. Complex problem solving was defined as the No. 1 skill.
Others included critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication and emotional intelligence. Others said service learning, incorporating social and environment actions, in-depth cultural understanding and the ability to adapt as a lifelong learner – “timeless” skills.
Describing the new job landscape by analyzing trends, the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, suggests five priority skills for the coming decades – self-management, project management, teamwork, entrepreneurship and design thinking. While literacy and numeracy will continue to be essential, applying them is even more important.
“A job is not just a job” – it provides the individual with meaning, hope, identity, power and opportunity.
The reskilling, upskilling, and retraining of workers is becoming indispensable. It is not enough to write reports.
Identifying reskilling priorities and job transition opportunities, creating pools of skilled talent and reinforcing lifelong learning in this moment of transition must be urgent global priorities.
A “skills revolution” could harvest many new opportunities, if education and training systems are indeed ready to adapt. “The future depends on what you do today,” Mahatma Gandhi said.
Rubina Abu Zeinab-Chahine is Executive Director, Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development.