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The future of jobs scary or exciting?

Jordan Morrow, Global Head of Data Literacy, Qlik


It’s time to debunk the myth around the “Future of Jobs”.

There are many questions and debates in the world today surrounding the future of jobs: what will be the future of jobs, will AI and other technology take over jobs, do education systems around the world need to change to better prepare students, and so forth. These, and many other questions, are both valid and vital.

With the rapid change in technology and the disruption it brings, the advent and need for new skills, and many more answers are needed to help individuals and organizations truly prepare themselves for the jobs of the future. In a recent report, the World Economic Forum looked at the future of jobs and provided us with some very rich data to gather insights and help us all understand what we can do to better prepare ourselves. The reality is that yes, some jobs will be replaced, but the human element cannot be overstated, and despite what you may have read over the past few years, technology and AI are not going to take over the world. Yes, change is coming, but there will be many new opportunities that are created for workers in current and new fields. The future job economy is vibrant, exciting, and can be embraced by all.

In its report, the World Economic Forum starts off with a very strong and powerful statement on technology and jobs:

“… it is also clear that the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s wave of technological advancement is set to reduce the number of workers required for certain work tasks. Our analysis finds that increased demand for new roles will offset the decreasing demand for others. However, these net gains are not a foregone conclusion. They entail difficult transitions for millions of workers and the need for proactive investment in developing a new surge of agile learners and skilled talent globally.”

This is a very optimistic prediction overall, but contains a stern caution. When we think of industrial revolutions of the past, over time, more jobs are created then eliminated. The WEF is stating the exact same thing, but there is a caveat: the transitions to the types of jobs in the future may be difficult and there needs to be a proactive investment on the part of organizations and individuals to reskill and retrain themselves. The jobs of the future will not be the jobs of the past, which requires news skills for thousands of people. Some might see this as too hard or too difficult, where people lack the desire to do this, but in my mind, it represents a great opportunity. With technology set to, and already does, augment and improve our lives instead of replacing us, utilizing new skills allows us to be more marketable and serviceable in the future.

The WEF report also states: “…in order to harness the transformative potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, business leaders across all industries and regions will increasingly be called upon to formulate a comprehensive workforce strategy ready to meet the challenges of this new era of accelerating change and innovation.”

This statement begs the question: whose responsibility is it to help empower and enable individuals to succeed in the future economy? From the statement above, we can see that it is business leaders across all industries and regions who need to come up with strategies, but this is not all. Along with businesses taking upon themselves to retrain and reskill employees, it is up to each one of us, individually, to put individual plans in place, have the right drive and passion to succeed, and set goals to have the right skills in place. Yes, organizations and business leaders, along with governments, should be putting effective strategies and plans in place to help everyone succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but they can’t do it for us. This is where individuals need to put forth the personal effort to develop and grow within their own skills, helping those organizational and business strategies to succeed.

One final thought, out of the many hundreds the report provides, is this: “A reskilling imperative: By 2022, no less than 54% of all employees will require significant re-training and upskilling.” When we think of the future economy, there are many new skills that will be needed to succeed, some that may not have been invented yet, but one vital skill that will help individuals to not only compete but to succeed is data literacy. The ability to read, work with, analyze, and argue with data will be vital, as organizations look to capitalize on their valuable asset of data and consume data effectively. Through data literate employees, organizations will have the ability to make data-informed decisions, and data-informed decisions is the ultimate goal of data and analytics. One key note: working with data does NOT mean one has to be a data scientist. The powerful analytics tools being developed that use machine learning and natural language to interact with people makes nearly any job an opportunity to interact with and use data.

Overall, the world is shifting rapidly within the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the new jobs that appear for our and future generations will be innovative and surprising and many will be similar to today, just augmented with technology. Organizations and we as individuals should be doing all we can to prepare ourselves to succeed in the rapidly changing world. The world of data literacy is a vital skill that can help everyone to be a valuable asset in this future. Study our recent findings on the value of data literacy to organizations in our Data Literacy Index report. Data literacy needs to be understood and valued as organizations look to grow and propel into the future.