While it is impossible to predict the future, we can confidently say that the workforce will continue to evolve and change. The advent of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) continues to change the way organizations deliver goods and services. Jobs are being restructured or in some cases disappearing altogether, and the changes won't stop any time soon. Researchers predict that up to 50% of the workforce will need to be reskilled by 2025.
With continuous change on the horizon, it is imperative that higher education institutions prepare today's students to work in professions that don't even exist yet. It is the job of the institution to help these students acquire the skills they will need to be successful and productive members of the ever-evolving workforce. Do online learning platforms have a place in this daunting task? How can they be made to fit the rapidly changing work environment?
Universities and vocational schools may not be able to train people for specific jobs that do not yet exist, but they can teach students the hard and soft skills needed to adapt to a changing work environment.
Below, we've outlined which skills are expected to be in high demand for future careers. We also look at what educational establishments can do to ensure their students master these skills.
Which skills will be most in demand by employers in the future?
To succeed in the workplace, employees will need to hone their hard and soft skills, but there's another area that's gaining popularity among employers: attitudes.
It will no longer be enough for employees to have certain abilities. They will also need to have a change mindset that helps them to self-monitor, self-know and recognise the needs of others in the organisation. According to a study conducted by the World Economic Forum and the McKinsey Global Institute, there are 56 core skills and attitudes that are expected to be in high demand, and many of these skills involve a person's attitude toward their job.
Referred to by the World Economic Forum as the "Distinctive Elements of Talent" (DELTA), these skills and attitudes span four categories and cover a range of competencies. Below, we look at these four categories, as well as what we believe will be most in demand in the future.
1) Jobs will require cognitive skills and a willingness to learn
Employers will look for people who demonstrate a willingness to be innovative and learn new skills. Efficiency is the name of the game. Cognitive skills such as problem solving, time management and the ability to recognise bias will be much in demand in the years ahead. As the number of automated jobs increases, the ability of humans to conceptualise and find solutions to complex problems will be increasingly valued.
One of the skills employers will look for and encourage is a person's willingness to adapt to their surroundings or even adopt a new perspective. Employers will value these skills as they require the person to be astute and to recognise their own shortcomings or areas for improvement. People who are already open to this way of thinking are also often willing to engage in meaningful collaboration and discussion with others.
Another cognitive skill that is on the rise is storytelling. It's a necessary, universal skill that is used to make connections between organizations and their customers, but it's also useful in the workplace. Sometimes people need convincing before they are ready to make a change. A good story helps to illustrate why a change is necessary and beneficial to a department or organization, so hiring managers will look for people who can tell it well.
2) Social and interpersonal skills will become even more valuable
Coaching, mentoring and collaboration between colleagues are key factors in developing and improving the culture of an organisation, so employees will need to hone their social skills to be successful.
Organizational leaders will look for interpersonal skills such as empathy, patience, and sociability. They will also look for people with strong abilities to:
- Promote inclusion;
- Resolve conflicts and cooperate;
- Empower and motivate others
More and more companies will continue to make efforts to achieve diversity, equality and inclusion, so it's essential to hire teams with mindsets focused on building relationships and encouraging others.
3) Employers will look for people with strong self-management skills
It remains to be seen whether the trend towards increased teleworking will remain sustainable, but that does not mean we are obliged to return to the days of the strict 40-hour working week. In fact, it is quite the opposite - workers are demanding more flexibility in terms of working hours.
In this sense, employers will have to trust their employees to do their job effectively. This means that self-management skills will continue to be in high demand. Organisations will be looking for people who are driven and intrinsically motivated. People with entrepreneurial mindsets will also be highly valued in the job market because they are usually very driven and willing to try new things.
Organizations will also look for people who have a strong ability to self-regulate and manage both their time and emotions. Employees who are able to identify and effectively manage their own impulses and weaknesses are likely to show a desire to develop and grow - a plus for organisations looking to maintain their headcount.
4) Digital literacy and awareness will remain a top priority
Technology is not going away, so future employees will need to keep up with technology trends and maintain at least a basic level of digital literacy. While not every job in the future will require specific computer or technology skills, it's a good idea for people to keep up with current technology and demonstrate a willingness to learn.
Demand for these specific digital skills is growing:
- Programming literacy;
- Cyber security literacy;
- Computational and analytical thinking;
- Data analysis and statistics.
How can educational institutions prepare students for the future workforce?
As the world of work continues to evolve, the structure of post-secondary education remains largely unchanged. To prepare students for their future careers and give them the in-demand skills mentioned above, educational institutions will need to make some big changes.
While it is true that many skills can be learned through traditional classroom collaboration and active learning, employers are increasingly looking to candidates with work experience rather than those with certificates or diplomas. This is partly due to the fact that there simply aren't university programs for some of the specific digital skills that are needed today.
For example, at the time of this writing, there are no postsecondary programs that offer certification for Epic, even though it is the most widely used health record system in the United States. Similarly, there are an extremely limited number of higher education institutions that offer SaaS courses or certification in programs such as Salesforce, an extremely popular and sought-after skill set.
It would be helpful if more institutions offered courses and certificates in these high-demand fields, but this will probably still not be enough to prepare students for the future. Real-life and work experience is still among the top factors that would attract the attention of managers. We therefore recommend that higher education institutions include more learning by doing in their curricula.
This learning style depends on learners being given the opportunity to gain practical experience and the opportunity to reflect on and learn from their mistakes. Practice also encourages deeper levels of learning and understanding as opposed to standard memorisation of facts and texts, which is more likely to be forgotten over time or not used.
When students can demonstrate their work experience, they are more likely to develop the hard and soft skills and attitudes employers will be looking for in the future. It will therefore be important for higher education institutions to offer their students opportunities to participate in more work placements and other forms of learning by doing.
The world of work is changing. Higher education needs to change too!
We are fast approaching a point in history when the old ways of learning will no longer be relevant and useful.
Universities and other institutions will need to consider what changes they need to make to ensure they continue to serve their students and teach them the skills they will need to succeed professionally.
Online learning platforms will play an important role in preparing the desired skills. They are a suitable tool for creating habits of self-reliance and self-discipline in future employees and workers. With a variety of ways to deliver learning content and apply what is learned, as well as opportunities for team projects and assignments, distance learning platforms are a suitable tool for training the workforce of the future.
Training the future workforce is the responsibility and obligation of society. Schools and the state will struggle to meet this challenge alone. It is the commitment of companies to prepare people to meet the challenges of the workplace and create work attitudes and habits. An interesting and useful article on How to deal with an angry customer on the phone can be read if you use the active link.