The world is in the midst of a technological revolution. To take advantage and participate in this new, technology-enabled environment, individuals, private organizations and governments need to prioritize reskilling.
The investment case for this is compelling, as reskilling will contribute around $2.5 trillion to the global economy, according to Till Leopold, Head, Inclusive Economies Practice, Centre for the New Economy and Society at the World Economic Forum.
This reskilling realization accelerated during COVID-19. According to Jonas Prising,
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at ManpowerGroup, “the pandemic was a watershed moment” that forced organizations and individuals across the private and public sectors to look into the future.
To facilitate and be productive in remote work environments, businesses had to rapidly pivot ways of working and embrace new skills and business models to thrive in this environment.
Belen Garijo, Chair of the Executive Board and Chief Executive Officer at Merck, said: “The pandemic disrupted economies and society, but it was a great opportunity for the private sector to accelerate strategic people-centric plans.”
However, she added, “we were caught off guard and had to engage our workforce in a completely different way,” while ensuring business continuity.
Despite the initial challenges, public and private sectors were able to pivot, adapt and reskill at a much faster rate than anticipated, by leveraging technology.
Commenting on the importance of reskilling, C. Vijayakumar, CEO and Managing Director at HCLTech, said: “As technology skills have become more complex, the need to reskill has become paramount. Softer skills are also becoming very important.”
Vijaykumar also stated that after the initial disruption, he believed that “the pandemic gave people more time, which accelerated reskilling in the tech industry”.
He added: “You can have an organizational strategy, but it’s important to allow individuals to hone their skills and reskill.”
Looking at the current approach to reskilling, Prising said: “The pandemic accelerated the ambition across the world to reskill. [We’re] making strides to embrace digital transformation as it relates to the workforce. Employees know they need to improve their skillsets, and employers are providing this opportunity like never before. We need people to have soft skills to move forward.”
He continued: “The progress we are making is significant, but not sufficient.”
The reskilling revolution requires an interdisciplinary foundation
There has always been a gap between education outcomes and what the labor market requires.
To meet the needs of today’s rapidly changing environment where new skills are needed faster than ever before, Ahmad bin Abdullah Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of Education in the United Arab Emirates, explained the focus of education should be on adaptability.
“Graduate students should have interdisciplinary majors…[like] social entrepreneurship and business innovation. Trying to intertwine fields of study, while focusing on the soft skills will be more important moving forward,” he said.
This presents an interesting shift from five years ago, where the focus was on STEM skills.
Generative AI: The new skillset
Exploring a crucial technology skillset for the future of work, the panel discussed the importance of Generative AI.
Generative AI are systems that can quickly create content such as college essays, songs and digital pieces of art.
Explaining this tech trend, Vijayakumar said: “AI has been prevalent for more than two decades. We’ve all experienced it with something like online shopping. Assisted AI helping us in our day-to-day lives. Generative AI is taking AI to new levels, in terms of content creation and customer service, which is a really big industry.”
These emerging tech services are going to have a big impact on industries, with
Vijayakumar adding: “ChatGPT [an example of Generative AI and the world’s most advanced AI chatbot] is going to create an ecosystem around itself, which will drive a new era of innovation and disrupt traditional industries.”
Commenting on the impact of services like ChatGPT on education, the UAE’s Minister of Education said: “ChatGPT is an interesting way for students to integrate with and use AI. We should encourage students to use AI and test their knowledge.”
Looking at AI and tech from an industry level, Garijo explained: “Technology is an enabler of human intelligence. [We] use tech to drive our upskilling and make better decisions on data that identifies the needs and gaps.
She continued: “AI models help match capabilities to needs within organizations.”
Instead of leading to less jobs for more people, the rise of technologies, like AI and automation, have created a plethora of new jobs that require new skillsets.
“This has led to a huge skills shortage,” said Prising.
In tech, Vijayakumar noted that one billion roles will need to be reskilled to cope with this lack of skills.
Reskilling the current workforce is crucial, but not “a standalone approach”, according to Garijo. “We need to rethink strategies. The scarcity of certain skills is driving this,” she said.
Educational initiatives like HCLTech’s TechBee program, which onboards students to train them on new technologies and skills, can also help close this gap.
Impetus on soft skills and continuous learning
In the hybrid or remote working era, there has been a big shift in how employers engage with their employees. Soft or softer skills are required to effectively manage this environment.
According to Garijo, during the pandemic Merck prioritized leadership development and soft skills to deliver the organization’s human-centric ambition.
Vijayakumar added: “In most environments, collaboration is critical to build programs. One of the fundamental soft skills is how you can work together.”
Al Falasi agreed that “interpersonal skills” are fundamental to the future of work. He also emphasized that education provides the foundation, “but the journey of continuous learning starts at employment”.
Embracing a culture of continuous learning must be fostered by organizations and embraced by the individual to reskill and thrive in tomorrow’s economy.