The need for work­ers who can di­ver­sify their skills

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Post Graduate - PROF DATUK DR MAN­SOR FADZIL Prof Datuk Dr Man­sor Fadzil is the pres­i­dent and vice-chan­cel­lor of Open Uni­ver­sity Malaysia.

THE Min­istry of Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy and In­no­va­tion re­cently an­nounced that it has iden­ti­fied 73 new sci­ence- and tech­nol­ogy-based jobs for em­ploy­ees of the fu­ture.

This rev­e­la­tion was an ex­pected one as a 2013 study con­ducted by Ox­ford Mar­tin School – The Fu­ture of Em­ploy­ment: How Sus­cep­ti­ble are Jobs to Com­put­er­i­sa­tion? – showed that up to 47% of ex­ist­ing jobs in the United States will be ob­so­lete over the next 15 years due to the ad­vance­ments in tech­nol­ogy and au­to­ma­tion that are chang­ing how peo­ple do things.

Kai-Fu Lee, China’s lead­ing tech­nol­o­gist, seemed to con­cur with the study when he said last year that half of all jobs will be re­placed by ro­bots in the next decade. This phe­nom­e­non is not ex­clu­sive to de­vel­oped coun­tries but could also oc­cur in de­vel­op­ing ones.

What im­pli­ca­tion could this ad­vance­ment have on the global work­force?

While the Ox­ford Mar­tin School study may be true for cer­tain jobs, par­tic­u­larly those re­lated to man­u­fac­tur­ing, peo­ple in po­si­tions that re­quire cre­ativ­ity and de­ci­sion-mak­ing skills such as sci­en­tists, lec­tur­ers or busi­ness strate­gists may be less af­fected.

I be­lieve that jobs will not en­tirely dis­ap­pear but will in­stead be re­de­fined. This means that em­ploy­ees will need to learn new skills or im­prove ex­ist­ing ones to re­main rel­e­vant in the ev­er­chang­ing job mar­ket.

Those who can­not adapt may even­tu­ally find them­selves out of a job.

An un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree is now the min­i­mum qual­i­fi­ca­tion for most en­try-level ju­nior ex­ec­u­tive jobs, but this will no longer be enough in the fu­ture. Work­ers of the fu­ture may need to con­tinue ac­cu­mu­lat­ing ad­di­tional skills and qual­i­fi­ca­tions to en­sure they re­main em­ployed.

Many ex­perts be­lieve that fu­ture em­ploy­ees have to be more ag­ile­minded. In­stead of work­ing only one job, they must di­ver­sify their tal­ents so that they can take up ad­di­tional jobs.

Free­lanc­ing is pre­dicted to be the main way of life for many em­ploy­ees, es­pe­cially among mil­len­ni­als.

Mil­len­ni­als value the free­dom to build their life around their job. The ad­vent of tech­nol­ogy has made this a re­al­is­tic op­tion. It is not sur­pris­ing that even now, some peo­ple hold full-time jobs while work­ing as driv­ers for e-hail­ing ser­vices or con­duct­ing on­line busi­nesses in their free time.

Thus, it is im­por­tant that cur­rent up­skilling and reskilling pro­grammes ad­dress the needs of fu­ture em­ploy­ers to main­tain their com­pet­i­tive edge.

Deloitte Global, whose mem­ber com­pa­nies an­a­lysed hun­dreds of job pro­files and mapped them against the Ox­ford Mar­tin School study, iden­ti­fied 25 crit­i­cal hu­man skills that are ex­pected to be more in-de­mand as tech­nol­ogy evolves. These are traits that are es­sen­tially “hu­man” and in­di­cate an early guide­line for the re­design of jobs in the fu­ture.

Skills such as mul­ti­lin­gual­ism, crit­i­cal think­ing, speak­ing, ac­tive lis­ten­ing, speech clar­ity and writ­ing and read­ing com­pre­hen­sion were among the 25 traits iden­ti­fied.

It is im­por­tant that every­one prac­tises life­long learn­ing not only for ca­reer ad­vance­ment but also self-im­prove­ment.

It is pre­dicted that fu­ture em­ploy­ers will have a com­bi­na­tion of full-time, part-time and free­lance em­ploy­ees in their work­force. In tra­di­tional busi­nesses, em­ploy­ers hire peo­ple to per­form stip­u­lated jobs and in­vest in ad­di­tional train­ing and skill de­vel­op­ment for those em­ploy­ees, but in fu­ture, it is ex­pected that com­pa­nies will hire free­lancers to fill skill gaps in their work­forces.

Malaysia is al­ready prepar­ing for the Fourth In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion by mak­ing in­vest­ments in hi-tech ven­tures into aero­space en­gi­neer­ing, rail trans­port and ship­build­ing, but are we ready for other dras­tic changes, es­pe­cially ones re­lated to jobs we do not know about yet?

It is time that em­ploy­ees con­sider di­ver­si­fy­ing their skills to qual­ify for jobs that will crop up in fu­ture.

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