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Supporting the government’s ‘Digital by Default’ strategy we’re keen everyone has the skills and confidence to use IT. Here, we share thoughts on a variety of digital matters.See all posts by Digital Skills
We hear a lot about how the rise of robots will automate more and more occupations. Though we can’t predict the future with certainty so far out, young people need to plan ahead to build the skills that will help them secure a career, rather than a lifetime of leisure, writes John Reiners.
Those working in our education system need to provide advice, as well as equipping students with the skills they need. So here are seven predictions on how the demand for skills is changing, based on recent research:
To thrive in the future economy, people need the skills that companies demand and need to do work that can’t be done by a robot. We can identify three levels of technical expertise:
Specialist IT skills, such as software engineering, app developers, cybersecurity, and data scientists. A firm’s success is increasingly dependent on the quality of its software and its ability to get valuable insights from data. Surveys regularly report skill shortages in these areas. As competition increases for a small pool of available staff, salaries for these roles will increase. Career paths will also become wider, from IT into general management and leadership positions. Having these skills will provide opportunities to work independently - setting up your own business, working for small agencies, as independents or consultants.
Digital skills, such as expertise in accessing information, networking, and communicating using digital tools. These will help people be more productive in many roles that will be augmented by technology. This includes information-based roles - like research, financial and business services, marketing, and management positions. But it will also include more operational areas, working in automated factories, perhaps with 3-D printing, or in distribution centres with driverless trucks and drones. In addition to understanding how the technology works, you will need to add the human dimension that the computer can’t provide - critical thinking, experience, flexibility, and the ability to rapidly respond to new events that lead to effective decision-making.
Digital awareness, such as an ability to access the internet, use a smartphone and email or social networks. Some jobs are not threatened by technology, such as jobs needing physical dexterity (hairdressers) or personal care (nurses). However, a basic set of digital skills will increasingly be essential education for everyone, to access public services, banks, for shopping and entertainment. As recently as December 2014, 11 million people in the UK lacked these skills - a digital divide that can severely inhibit life chances.
It’s not possible for the educational curriculum to maintain the pace of technological change. But schools, colleges, training centres and universities need to do their best to prepare people for future careers. Employers can also play a key role providing training and career development opportunities. Beyond providing the specialist skills described above, they need to prepare people for the future employment landscape of uncertainty and changing skill requirements, by providing training in:
They can also help by inspiring people to build their IT skills. There is a persistent image problem for many who see IT as a life in front of a screen. IT needs a makeover, supported by inspirational role models - to convey the creativity and excitement of being at the forefront of change, making things happen, with varied, fulfilling and well-rewarded careers.