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The Skills Revolution: how to make a difference in the world of work


Places Editorial Board - Berlin

21 novembre 2018

They talked about the fourth industrial revolution (or Industry 4.0).

They told us that Big Data is the new oil.

They told us that much of the work that exists today and for which we are forming, investing time, energy and money, in ten years (some say even much less!) will no longer exist.

What's true in all of this? What are the real prospects for those who are taking their first steps in the world of work?

Let's try to debunk some myths.

"Man's work will be replaced by machines"

The password of Industry 4.0 is only one: automation. According to an analysis of Dell Technologies and the IFTF, 85% of the 2030 jobs (in only twelve years!) do not exist yet.

To get a proof, just think about how the marketing industry has evolved over the last ten years, as we have already had the opportunity to write here.

This means that the work has radically transformed (and will continue to do so), new professions will develop and others will probably fall into oblivion.

However, automation does not necessarily imply that "intelligent machines" will replace man in all respects.

For example, let's look at the search for "The Future of the Jobs", presented at the World Economic Forum. The document shows that the losses in terms of jobs, concentrated mainly in the administrative and production areas, will be offset by an increase in financial and business services. The disappearance of some occupations, mainly of manual or routine basis, will therefore correspond to the development of new "managerial" jobs, which will require new professional skills. Thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense: new skills for new jobs!

They change, that is to say, the skills which are required by the market: what we are talking about, in short, is a Skills Revolution!

With the spread of digital technologies, the sources and the platforms are multiplying, the big data that often make the news, and putting them together, drawing useful information, requires new tools and new skills. In other words, it requires the acquisition of digital hard skills.

However, Skills Revolution also includes another type of skill: the so-called __ soft__ skills: transversal skills, such as leadership skills, critical thinking and creativity.

According to Accenture, these soft skills are the most effective element to counter the reduction of jobs related to increasing automation. Not only that: they are also real predictors of how much an individual is able to learn hard skills. If it were possible to double the rate at which workers will develop these soft skills, the share of jobs at risk would decrease from 10% to 4% by 2025.

In other words: by learning what helps itself to learn what traditional education does not teach, the probability of being left without work is more than halved.

"But it's all useless: there's no work"

True: unemployment rates remain high (though, they are recently falling!), but, unlike what could be imagined, this does not make the search for talent easier for companies.

Just to make an example: did you know that 67% of companies find it difficult to find candidates with the right skills? This means that the demand is much higher than what we would expect and that it is actually a fair offer: are we really able to offer what companies need?

To the sadly known "We are looking for someone with more experience", today we can replace * "We are looking for someone with more skills" * or even, in many cases, "We are looking for someone with diverse" skills.

Thinking deeply about it, then, the problem lies more in a gigantic gap between university and work. The "traditional" training has not so far succeeded in aligning itself with a constantly changing market, which is not able to fully understand the needs. A gap that is growing.

What if we were actually facing a typical problem-opportunity? A huge opportunity for those who know how to grasp the entity: training using alternative methods can, in fact, guarantee a real competitive advantage.

"But training costs too much"

It is sometimes true for the "traditional" training, but we millennials have an extra gear: through a single click (minimum effort, maximum result!), we can associate to the "traditional" training another type that is geared towards work and not to the notions, which is done by doing and not storing notions. In the Anglo-Saxon world, it is called "__employment-focused education" and draws its foundations in learning by doing.

In this second category belong, for example, the MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses), e.g. online platforms in which the most renowned universities in the world (Stanford, MIT and Harvard, just to name a few), as well as companies ahead of all the others (from Uber, to Google, to Microsoft), provide real targeted courses, mostly for free.

To name just a few: Coursera offers an amazing course to start making Machine Learning, Udacity instead offers a project-based path to become data analyst, while EdX a course to understand how to model climate change and do research. And we could continue indefinitely.

It is appropriate to say, we have no more excuses: it's time to get involved and make the difference!