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Future skills and the workforce of tomorrow

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The rate of change in technology and our pace of life show no signs of abating. This is nowhere more noticeable than in the workplace, where many organisations are looking to address the challenge of ‘future skills’ – identifying what skills will be needed by the workforce of tomorrow..

This is not a future challenge, however – it’s happening now.

The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) is gathering momentum and if companies are not including this phenomenon in their strategic planning processes, they are already behind the curve.

The skill of the recruitment consultant is being able to identify a client’s technology needs through true consultancy, and as a valued partner intelligently translate these needs to the available skills in the market.

The flip side of this value-added approach is to advise candidates with emerging skills on how their skill-set could be adapted or enhanced to fit the future workplace. This comes from industry knowledge and experience, monitoring and analysing trends and innovations, and helping both candidates and clients meet this challenge successfully.

Future jobs, particularly in engineering and manufacturing, and the skills required to provide the agility to achieve competitive advantage, will be based around creativity and inventiveness.

Robots, additive manufacturing and artificial intelligence (AI) are not just the obsessions of sci-fi novelists and the technology press, they are already present within industry and have been for a number of years. However, the potential offered by connectivity and the Internet of Things (IoT), the race is on to capitalise on these technologies. For the here and now and the near future we are seeing many manufacturers enter a transition period, where new up-to-date skills are applied to traditional technologies while advanced development and manufacturing teams develop the products and production lines of tomorrow.

As an example of the ‘here and now’, through our 4IR networking activities we have witnessed what can happen when a second year IT/software student is seconded to a manufacturing organisation. The company in question were deploying very traditional planning processes that had remained unchanged for more than a decade. The fresh pair of eyes, application of new technology and creative thought processes engineered by the undergraduate solved a traditional problem within production control. By managing data in a different way, production planning time was reduced from hours to minutes, which enabled the company to transform their time to market and identify further transformational improvements in the planning and production processes.

It is essential a recruiter understands the sector and the role in depth before determining what skills would be a match – and they may not always come from the obvious sources.

Through the work we’ve undertaken in our Future Skills programme, helping businesses to be ‘skills ready’ for 4IR, we also came across an example of a graduate games designer, whose specialism was rendering artificial worlds for games platforms. He was introduced to an automotive company where he now renders virtual cities for autonomous vehicle applications – artificial testing and development which is as close as possible to the real thing, and far less costly.

Future jobs will transform the roles of traditional quality, manufacturing and process engineers; creative IT and data analysis skills are required to create algorithms and scrutinise systems to spot unusual values and identify variation and abnormalities to a level never before seen with current processes. Traditional engineering skill-sets will still be needed to analyse those anomalies and decipher what is behind the numbers and how problems may be resolved in the pursuit of defect-free products delivered to market in ever-decreasing lifecycle times.

There is a great deal of negativity in the media about the automation of jobs creating unnecessary fear that certain careers may become obsolete in the next few decades.

We must combat this negative message through collaboration between businesses, government and education, moving conversations to the exciting new skills and opportunities and how we meet challenges positively and proactively. Within recruitment, candidates, clients and consultants need to engage, develop and adapt ensuring the workforce not only has the necessary skills but is correctly guided as to where and how these skills can be transferred and applied for all our futures.

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