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Planning ahead for durable skills

It's time increase focus on those durable skills that create & support an agile business.

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Are we on the brink of a skills crisis?

A recent article from the team at Randstad has tackled this perennial question, asking: are young people developing the right skills they need for employment?

In the piece, written to mark the United Nations’ World Youth Skills Day, they note that as many as 48% of young people believe that they haven’t been taught the skills that will be needed in the workplace. Meanwhile, on the other side of the hiring line, employers are often struggling to find the right people, particularly in STEM areas, where as many as 46% are struggling to fill such roles. Skills such as problem solving, creativity, communicating effectively and making the most out of the work environment have been identified by businesses as the key entry-level skills that applicants will need in ten years’ time, and...

“’s crucial that we teach the younger generation what they need to know.”

These are, of course, age-old questions, but they are ones that have been given a fresh urgency and importance by recent technological changes.

The changing concept of what work is

Automation and artificial intelligence are transforming the workplace, with some jobs disappearing, whilst other, wholly new roles emerge. In particular, the types of skills that employers need is also changing. At Deloitte’s ‘Center for the Edge’, some recent discussions have been focusing on these shifts, and arguing that we need to rethink our very concept of what work is in order to adapt. Rather than thinking about a skill as being the ability to accomplish a particular task, or to operate a particular system or piece of machinery, we need to think more broadly.

“What increasingly matters…are things like curiosity, imagination, creativity, emotional intelligence, social intelligence. Those are things that are essential to addressing unseen problems and opportunities in any environment. ”

Others agree. According to Jeremy Auger – co-founder of D2L – the average lifespan of a tech skill is now just 18 months. Things like creativity and adaptability on the other hand, are ‘durable’, and can be taken anywhere. But how do we equip young people with the creativity, curiosity and adaptability they will need in the future workplace?

Is AI automation the answer?

The good news, perhaps, is that there may be far more of these ‘skills’ out there than we might think. According to the ‘Center for the Edge’, we need to stop thinking about things like imagination and creativity as abilities that only some people possess:

We all have it as humans. The issue is that for many of us, if not most of us, it got crushed, first in schools and then the work environment…but they're still there…if given the right environment and the right encouragement.

Perhaps the bigger question, then, is not a shortage of such abilities, but how do employers find and nurture them? For some, it is the technology that is driving these changes – artificial intelligence – which also has the answers. According to one report, 38 percent of companies already use AI in hiring and recruiting, whilst 62 percent expect to do so by the end of this year. But skills like creativity and imagination have become so important precisely because they cannot be automated, or replicated easily by machines. If AI doesn’t have these capabilities, how effective will it be at recognising them in people?

Creativity, imagination and adaptability

Whilst it may provide part of the answer, AI is unlikely to be the solution on its own. We, ourselves, as humans, need to get better at recognising these ‘durable’ skills, and nurturing them in our workforces. One solution might be to try to think more broadly about what skills young people might have – realising that these might be demonstrated in unusual ways that we’re not used to. Another might be to look within the company, and try to nurture and encourage these capabilities in workers who are already with us. Ultimately, the strategies that employers and recruiters will need will depend on humans and our ability to think in depth about people. If we want skills like creativity, imagination and adaptability in our workforces, we need to start showing them in our hiring practices.


Author -David Selway

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