Upskilling for the Future: why bother?

Natalija Counet
Jun 12, 2017 · 5 min read

I often start my workshops asking people if they think their jobs will still exist in the year 2032. Will we still be hiring Android developers, product managers, web designers in 2032? The response I get is rarely based on what jobs people actually do. I have talked to programmers who think that it will be the top profession in 15 years’ time and programmers who believe that their job will be obsolete, as the AI will be doing most of the programming.

It typically comes down to one thing. People who believe their jobs will still exist can’t imagine the world without someone (humans) doing the job they are doing. People who think their jobs will be obsolete see the signs, innovations, and movement in their industry that will have a disruptive impact on the future work opportunity in that area.

The World Economic Forum predicts that 5,1 million jobs will be lost to the disruptive labour market by 2020. The Oxford University predicts that 47% of all existing jobs will cease to exist by 2033. It does not mean we will have half fewer jobs out there. It means that humans will no longer do almost half of the current jobs. You may think, wait, but some of the most wanted professions nowadays didn’t exist ten years ago. So the next years will bring us a whole new list of jobs. Should we be worried about the jobs at all?

I think the question is not whether we will have the jobs in the future, the question is whether we will have the right skills to be able to do them and deal with what the concept of ‘work’ and ‘career’ is being transformed into. In 2016, the global survey showed that 40% of employers already experience difficulties finding people with right skills to do the job. In coming years the skill gap is just going to grow.

The challenge we face in upskilling professionals is not only about delivering the right skillset for the future. It is also about making learning agility our superpower, both on an individual and an organisation level.

Learning agility as a competitive advantage

Simply put, learning agility is a competency or a capability which describes a person’s or organisation’s speed to learn. If you are in a situation that is new to you, how fast can you adapt, apply your previous knowledge and come up with solutions. While most of the conversation about learning agility now happens in the framework of leadership development, it is one of the key competencies for creating a competitive advantage in the future for every professional and organisation.

The question is why we should bother about learning agility and skills of the future more than we do already? Is that just a new L&D hype?


The future is unknown

First of all, knowledge is no longer the most precious part of learning — we cannot just rely on “knowing”, smart models and how to’s. There is a famous study that showed that nearly 50% of subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree outdated by the time students graduate. It used to be true for technical professions. Now it is applicable in many other fields. Lots of subject knowledge get outdated in just a few years’ time. If you graduated with a marketing degree 3–5 years ago and you have not worked a day in that area till now, the chances are big you will have to learn it all over again. On the top of it, 65% of children in the school system today need to be prepared for jobs that have not been created yet. In reality, probably almost all children in primary schools today are going to become a part of an entirely different employment landscape. It is one we have little idea about at this moment.

Change happens within

While some professions are not going to be obsolete in the near future, they will be disrupted within. We will still have teachers, doctors, and finance professionals in 10 years’ time; however, the what and how they do things is going to change. Let’s take the example of the medical field. It is clear that technological innovations will allow for increasing automation of diagnosis and personalization of treatments, redefining many medical roles towards translating and communicating this data effectively to patients. We might keep the job titles; however, for most professions, the job descriptions will be continuously changing. Hence the skillset required will be advancing as well.

Multiple careers is a norm

Nowadays it is hardly possible to imagine a lifetime with just one career anymore. The Future Workplace research predicts that the youngest workers will have 15–20 jobs in a lifetime. Dozens of experts suggest that it becomes a norm to go through many careers in a lifetime. The number is usually seven, though at times it is as low as three and sometimes as high as 10. That means that around seven times in your working life you will be at a point of leaving the old known harbour behind you and moving to new waters. This is where learning agility and skills as career and job hacking will be central to your transition.

Our challenge is fostering learning agility

The question we try to answer with 361degreesLAB is how do we create environments for the development of learning agility and skills of the future? How do we build a capacity to absorb the disruptive changes to our jobs, careers, and lives? And most important, how can we do it at high speed and the unprecedented scale?

In my book “Jobs of the Future: Skills for the New Reality” that will be coming out in fall 2017, I will be examining core skills for coming years. In the meantime, we will be sharing our insights and journey of Upskilling for the Future here. Feel free to subscribe for relevant updates and join the conversation.

Upskilling for the Future

Everything on skills that become increasingly important in the new reality of the workplace

Natalija Counet

Written by

Founder || Learning beyond Traditiona Degrees || Skills of the Future|| Reskilling & Upskilling of Professionals

Upskilling for the Future

Everything on skills that become increasingly important in the new reality of the workplace

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