The future of work means the skills mix of the future is changing
Most of us are now well used to hearing messages about the ways in which artificial intelligence and robotics are taking us toward an ever more automated future. What is now referred to as the ‘4th Industrial Revolution’ brings with it both challenges, but also exciting opportunities for us as individuals, and the companies and industries that we work in.
To take full advantage of these opportunities, we need to spend time reflecting on how we can adapt our skill-sets to meet the changing skills mix required of our future selves. The World Economic Forum’s set of reports on future skills suggest that the STEM workforce of 2030 will not only require technical skills, but also strong so-called ‘soft skills’, including emotional intelligence, negotiation, building relationships, and complex problem-solving.
In other words, in a more automated world, we can ‘future-proof’ ourselves by focusing on those skills that make us uniquely human.
Looking ahead to the 2019 WISE Conference in May, which has the theme “Our Skills, Our Future”. We asked WISE champions past and present, how the skills mix of the future is changing and which skills they use in their STEM role they didn’t realise would be so useful.
“In University, I volunteered for a charity called Nightline, and as part of that had to undertake training in ‘active listening’ skills, and how to have conversations with people where you are solely focused on helping them to explore their thoughts instead of your opinions or agenda. Those active listening skills have been invaluable to me in my career so far, especially as I’ve begun to manage people and to need to understand what makes them tick.”
2018 WISE Technician Award winner, Alison
“One skill I never thought I would ever need as a technician was empathy. As I see the students every week and I’m not seen as an authority figure compared to a lecture, lots of students open up to me. I think that sometimes students are away from home for the first time and they need to speak to someone who isn’t a peer about their problems.”
Current WISE Young Professional Board member, Nadia.
“Task management is a critical part of any job. Company culture is generally fast paced and deadlines focus with the requirement to manage multiple tasks. Being focused on one thing at a time and setting completion goals for each of these tasks is a big win and will earn you lots of credibility.”
2018 WISE Technology Award winner, Chetna.
“Negotiation between different people and teams is the first one. It is not about conflict but about people having different views or perspective to the same issue or situation. Resolving the complex situations where people cannot communicate effectively at work by simplifying the conversations led me a far way.
Although IT isn’t traditionally thought of as a “helping” field like medicine or social work, a big part of almost every technology job involves helping people, whether you’re creating new technology that makes people’s lives easier or helping them figure out ways around technology hurdles. Information technology jobs are some of the best careers for people who love to help others. The ability to work as a team is critical, and perhaps the most vital skill.”
Current WISE Young Professional Board member, Abigail.
“Networking (with people not computers!). I’m much more effective in my role because I’ve built a great network of brilliant colleagues with knowledge, skills and experience in different areas which I can draw on and learn from when needed.”
As Chetna says above, regardless of your specific role, you will probably find yourself regularly having to negotiate with other people, over issues as small as whose turn it is to buy the coffee, to as big as which approach to take in tackling a new project.
The WISE Young Professionals’ Board will be running a workshop on negotiation skills at the upcoming WISE Conference in May, for everyone who wants to improve their ability in this crucial, but sometimes tricky skill.
Young Professionals’ Board members will share our personal stories of when we have got it right, and also very wrong, and we will discuss and get a chance to practice trying out some top tips and hints from exciting research on negotiation strategy carried out at Stanford Business School.