Fred Flack, Head of Talent Academy at CloudStratex, discusses how the UK labour force recognises the need for technology skills in future workforces
The world is currently in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a new era characterised by astonishing advances in technology that are redefining how we live in the 21st century. Such are its implications for global society, politics, culture, and economics, that it is dominating discourse at the highest level, even being the focus of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual meeting in Davos last year.
While breakthroughs in technology are crucial to making a better world, they are useless without the ability to understand how they work and leverage effectively. This has led Klaus Schwab, the founder, and executive chairman of the WEF to state that, “…in the future, talent, more than capital, will represent the critical factor of production.”
This means there will be an even greater need, above and beyond our existing one, for the UK’s workforce to be technologically educated, trained, and upskilled. Failure to do so will be devastating. Not only will our country and businesses be quickly left behind in today’s highly competitive global economy, but we will also see a rise in social inequalities between those who can meet the needs of the modern economy and those whose services can be easily automated and replaced.
A skills evolution will lead to a technological revolution
For the average person working in so-called “low-skilled” or “routine” jobs, such changes in technology have placed their livelihoods at a very real risk. For example the Oxford Economics’ report “How Robots Change the World – What Automation Really Means for Jobs and Productivity” states that on average, each newly installed robot displaces 1.6 manufacturing workers and that as many as 20 million additional manufacturing jobs worldwide could be displaced due to robotisation by 2030.
In the UK specifically, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated last year that 1.5 million people in England are most likely to lose their jobs as a result of automation, with women, young people, and those who work part-time most at risk.
It is clear then that the government, companies, and workers have a responsibility to do their best to adapt to the ever-evolving demands of business and the economy. Especially given that a CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey titled “Education and learning for the modern world” revealed that 40% of employers put their inability to source suitable employees down to a lack of skills. Conversely almost half of young people in the UK believe that their education has not prepared them for the world of work. This means there needs to be a concentrated focus on re-skilling and up-skilling so that companies can secure the full benefits from the technologies they utilise.
Harnessing the power of talent
It is not all doom and gloom. While technology is eliminating the need for some jobs it is also creating a whole sleugh of new technical and digital specialisms. Moreover, the UK labour market is already aware of the importance of technology for their future career prospects and personal well-being. techUK, the technology trade association, recently released data from Ipsos MORI which revealed that 58% of adults in the UK, aged 16-75 years are interested in gaining more digital skills in the next 12 months. The level of interest is even higher among those aged 16-24 (73%) and 25-34 (75%), which suggests that this could be the perfect opportunity for the government and businesses to progress the tech skills agenda in the UK’s workforce. If our business leaders and politicians fail to capitalise and support the desire of people to better themselves via skills training, tech apprenticeships and education, they risk jeopardising the UK’s recovery and position as the sixth-largest world economy. So let’s secure our place in the Fourth Industrial Revolution by doing all we can to precipitate a skills revolution!