The future of work – we must become digitally fitter!

Have you been wondering lately if IT specialists will soon be the only job-seekers in demand everywhere, while all other professions lose significance? Will jobs only be created in the technology sector? Must we therefore learn to code in order to be fit for the future?

I looked into these questions as a guest-author for the Alumniportal Deutschland, where I am also a guest speaker at the Virtual Coffee Break hosted by the Alumniportal this December. Here’s a reprint of the blog.

New job descriptions

The evidence so far shows, on the one hand, that technological progress contributes to the disappearance of jobs. On the other hand, it also creates new jobs. Before the Corona crisis, employment had even increased due to technological development – although this had not been the case in all countries, nor in all socio-demographic groups.

Automation will change a lot of professions!

The most severely affected are occupations in offices, in sales and trade, in the transportation sector and logistics, the manufacturing industry, and construction. Automation will also have a strong influence on occupations in some service sectors, for example in finance, translation, and taxation. Occupations in these areas have one thing in common: routine tasks following clear patterns play a large role, and technology can therefore easily take over.

Conversely, the least affected are jobs that involve cognitively demanding and creative tasks and social interaction. These tend to be found in the following sectors: education and academia, healthcare, social work, the arts and media, corporate management, legal services, engineering, and information technology.

On the one hand, therefore, jobs will disappear. However, on the other hand, many new job descriptions will arise as a result of digitalization. There is a demand for data analysts and data architects, specialists in networking, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, and designers of new intelligent machines, robots, and 3D printers. All these professions require a complex bundle of skills from various fields such as information technology, statistics, and business management.

At the same time, jobs, which require no special expertise, are on the rise. Digital platforms drive this development. It is here that commissioning parties and service providers, also known as crowd-workers, come together. They only work together for a particular project. Increasing numbers of people are working in this way – on a self-employed basis rather than in standard employment relationships.

But digitalization also changes how we work. For example, since the Corona pandemic, educational work has taken place almost exclusively in digital form. The healthcare sector is increasingly investing in solutions based on artificial intelligence. These could result in doctors having less freedom in the future to decide what kind of treatment to apply.

Which competencies will we need in the future?

As in educational work and in the healthcare sector, digital tools will be used in almost every profession – and this requires new competencies!

The Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, in cooperation with companies, has defined what is known as a Future Skills Framework. It contains the skills that will become noticeably more important in the next five years both in professional and social life.

Firstly, it comprises of technological skills. This means the competencies required in order to design transformative technologies. These include, for example, the capability of analyzing complex data, such as the development of artificial intelligence. Web development, user-centric design, and the development of blockchain technologies are further examples.

Secondly, digital basic skills will become more important. Such are the competencies that enable people to find their way in a digitalized environment and to participate in it. These include, for example, digital learning and the capacity for joint (collaborative) work. The confident handling of data on the web (digital literacy) is also one of these basic skills.

The third category of skills that will become more important in the future is non-digital key competencies. From the companies’ point of view, these are the competencies and characteristics, which will gain importance in the workplace of the future. The capability of solving problems, as well as creativity and perseverance will be crucial. The capacity for creativity and imagination is the “most important human key qualification of the future”, according to the future study “Life, Work, Education 2035+” by the Bertelsmann Foundation.

Acquiring digital basic skills and lifelong learning

In summary, we can therefore say that digitalisation will influence all professions.

For this reason, we must become digitally fitter. This does not mean that we must all be able to program. However, there will be no avoiding digital basic skills.

Given the developments triggered by digitalization, we must be aware that, even if we remain in the same profession, we will not carry out the same tasks our whole working life. We must therefore be prepared for continual personal development. In order to keep pace with digitalization, shorter learning cycles will be necessary for different phases of life.

The responsibility for this, however, should not just be with each individual. It has to be a social task. The education and social systems must also find an answer to these developments.

Image by FunkyFocus from Pixabay.

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