If you want to be employable 13 years from now (and you probably do), in 2030, it will pay to develop your soft skills.
There will be many changes in the employment and economic landscapes over the next decade or so, and those changes are impacting, and will continue to impact, the ways in which we make a living.
We’ve all heard that the robots are coming for many of our jobs. And when they do, what remains for humans to do will differ from what we’re doing today. Specifically, the jobs that are easy to automate are likely those that require less of a human touch. Jobs that are heavy on manual tasks are more likely to automate than those that require empathy and insight.
And that means the skills we need to succeed will likely be soft ones. This is according to a new report by the British innovation foundation Nesta and the Oxford Martin School predicting the future of employment and skill requirement. To do this, researchers looked at jobs that are likely to be automated (such as shelf fillers and van drivers) and those with the greatest growth prospects (such as teachers and nurses). Then, they looked at the most common skills among the latter.
The good news is that the researchers believe that predictions of the robot takeover are greatly exaggerated, and that only one in five occupations is likely to shrink. The maybe less good news is that only one in ten occupations is likely to grow, and seven in ten people are “currently in jobs where we simply cannot know for certain what will happen.”
It’s also worth noting that technology isn’t the only driving factor behind the changes. Others include environmental sustainability, urbanization, and demographic shifts.
That being said, the top five skills of the future are*:
Judgement and decision making: Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
Fluency of ideas: The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).
Active learning: Learning strategies—selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.
Learning strategies: Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
Originality: The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.
This makes sense to a degree. The abilities to learn, adapt, and problem solve will always be valuable. They’re valuable now – more than half of hiring managers say it’s difficult to find people with the soft skills they need. And predictions seem to be that machines will take over manual tasks like stocking, and even surgery. But we can’t know for sure how this is going to play out, of course. After all, a robot can perform complex microsurgeries, but probably won’t be able to make split-second, life-saving decisions with any type of reliability any time soon.
We’re still going to need hard skills. The notion that futurists keep feeding us that all we’re going to need to get ahead in the future is a plucky spirit and a can-do attitude is silly. It’s just that we don’t know what those skills are going to be. Data learning and coding are good bets – though what kind of coding is hard to say.
So, at the end of the day, the report is bang on. The best thing you can do to prepare for the future – and prepare your kids for the future – is develop the aforementioned soft skills. Because active learning and fluency of ideas are exactly the soft skills you’ll need to learn the hard skills of the future. — whatever they turn out to be
*(Definitions via technologyreview.com, and O*NET)