With robots increasingly taking over jobs, it may be soft skills that will guarantee continued employment. While the best workers need to be highly skilled, they must also learn to work well in teams and think creatively.
The Future of Work Centre of Excellence has been studying market disruptions and work trends around the world. It found that about half of the work across all occupations is at risk of being automated within the next five years. However, the likelihood of an entire profession disappearing because of automation is “quite low” – it is far more likely that component parts of occupations will be enabled by technology, thereby augmenting, not replacing the worker. Today, technologies are becoming more cognitive and displacing “brain power” in the white-collar workforce, something that young graduates entering the workforce should take note of.
While young people could pick up things like data science or learn how to code so that they could design and construct machines, they should also focus on tasks best done by humans. These includes building relationships, showing empathy, mentoring and solving problems in a bid to help humanity. Tertiary institutions should this give students more opportunities to innovate, try out new ways of doing things and be entrepreneurs – skills that machines do not have.
Full-time work or a 9am to 5pm job is also changing. The increasing trend are jobs with part-time, freelancers or contract employees. There is also a greater shift towards letting people decide where best to work – from offices or at home, or in shared workspaces. This ties in with expectations of a millennial workforce which values flexibility.
I agree that the future will see more intensified use and integration of technologies in the workforce. Hence, it is important that we remind students to not be complacent and keep on learning after they leave school. This includes going for courses or upgrading themselves on soft skills which machines are unable to replicate. Otherwise, they risk trailing behind as technologies improve and run the risk of losing their jobs to machines.
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