Kanishka Misal, MD of InfinityGlobal.io, argues that the UK must pivot people’s skills to the hundreds of thousands of roles emerging in the tech sector in order to strengthen the jobs economy
It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digitalisation as businesses move increasing amounts of their activities online. This move online is, however, stoking fears that technology and automation will reduce the total number of jobs available, a concern compounded by the news that 730,000 jobs have been lost in the UK since lockdown began in March.
But while it may involve some disruption in the short term, in the longer term this process of digitalisation – and the technology advances that accompany it – is actually going to create a stronger jobs economy.
That’s because technology can deliver a significant step up in the level of customer service and experience that businesses can offer, and they are going to need a skilled workforce to enable them to deliver this.
Take the revolution already happening in the taxi industry. Black cabs were very good at transporting people from A to B, but that was about it. When Uber arrived on the scene there was a big leap forward in terms of the type of customer experience available, from booking and paying online to being able to leave reviews. And that is likely to be just the start, as technology enables passengers to watch films or listen to a podcast on their trip, or order a coffee, or take part in a video conference. Further out, we are likely to see the introduction of autonomous vehicles and AI to improve the customer experience further.
All of this will need to be designed, coded and created by a skilled workforce. Which means that in the next five to ten years we are going to see the creation of a tremendous amount of skilled, interesting and well-paid jobs.
Indeed this evolution is already happening, with people with skills in specialised areas of technology already in big demand. Right now, for example, there are nearly 700,000 vacancies for skilled workers in the cybersecurity industry, and that demand will only increase as new software applications require increasingly sophisticated systems to protect them from cyber attack.
It is true that in the short term this may involve a period of transition and adjustment as people realign their skills with what is now needed by employers. The type of jobs available will change dramatically as the next phase of digitisation is rolled out, which means that individuals will need to pivot to acquire new, more relevant skills.
But the good news is it is not going to take long to acquire them. Whereas in the past learning technology skills might have taken several years, now it is possible to become an expert in a specific area in less than six months. There is so much hyper specialisation now that you can focus on one particular area and make an amazing, well-paid career out of it.