What are the future skills which will be needed given the exponential growth in technology fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented and virtual reality (AR, VR), data science, digital biology and biotech, medicine, nanotech, and digital fabrication, networks and computing systems, robotics, and autonomous vehicles?
The rate of change is enough to make parents and educators heads’ spin but it is crucial that our employment, training, and educations systems are able to respond to this rapidly changing landscape. Having the right skills at the right time – and in the right place within Canada’s workforce – will support Canada’s ability to be competitive and prosperous.
There are many initiatives trying to address some of these issues at the national, provincial and municipal levels. Some of the larger government-funded initiatives include the Labour Market Information Council (LMIC) which is working on curation, analysis, and dissemination of labour market information to enable better career and policy decisions. The “Forum of Labour Market Ministers” (FLMM) is a collaborative initiative of the federal government and provinces to develop a cohesive strategy across federal and provincial jurisdictions. The soon to be announced “Future Skills Centre” will focus on identifying, evaluating, replicating and scaling promising practice with a significant focus on supporting initiatives to ensure full participation of ALL Canadians in the labour Market.
Large employers like RBC through their Future Launch program and Industry Associations like the Business Council of Canada and their Business Higher Education Round Table (BHER) are also leading the charge for employers.
There is an urgent need to understand what skills Canadians will need to prosper in the future and how we can better leverage and indeed supercharge our current skills development infrastructure to meet these needs. Through its real-time Labour Market Intelligence (LMI) capabilities, collaborative approach and global partners, Ryerson University’s Magnet is well positioned to support these efforts to improve Canada’s economic outlook and facilitate job creation.
Let’s look at a few of the many interesting reports that shed some light on the specific skills that may be required
What are these future skills?
In an effort to create a more cohesive and consistent understanding of what employers really mean by ‘soft skills’, Burning Glass Technologies analyzed job postings to identify key skills not necessary to any specific job but based on cross-sectoral employer requests.
Here’s what Burning Glass Technologies said when identifying the top skills that employers are looking for: “This list also contains a major lesson for educators, training providers, and employers: all of these skills can be taught. These are not skills that have to be learned in childhood or not at all. That means that educators can build these into training programs, workers can sharpen their skills—and employers do not have to wait passively for the right workers to come along.”
As governments, non-profits and a growing number of businesses integrate workplace innovations, they must consider how to train, retain and nourish the complexities of a dynamic range of new skills, including soft skills, for young people entering the workforce.
Five Future Skills
Here are five soft skills identified through Burning Glass Technologies data indicating what employers are looking for.
Not just limited to interpersonal skills and establishing harmonious co-worker inhabitancy, effective communication is involved in writing, planning, customer service essentially every aspect of running an organization- from marketing strategies, media releases, advertising, reports, and presentations just to name a few. It encompasses many integral parts of both employer and worker success.
Often an overused term in resumes, a highly organized individual in any places of work should not be taken for granted. Tracking progress on various projects, keeping track of schedules and appointments is necessary for success and overlaps with many of the previous skills mentioned.
Clear, concise and accessible writing is always in demand- particularly in STEM fields that often don’t merge well with the general public due to convoluting language or ‘cryptic’ jargon. In fact, there’s now an entire field of science communicators whose job it is to make complex ideas seem more digestible.
Although this particular skill may seem relatively intuitive- after all, what company or organization doesn’t strive for customer satisfaction, most reserve it for retail or hospitality. However, regardless of the sector, be it accounting, IT, bioinformatics, you name it, building strong customer relations should always be a priority.
Research is about work that integrates creative and systematic means of knowledge discovery- the ability to efficiently source, track and modify information accordingly to maximize efficiency and potential. Whether you’re working in retail or industrial engineering, research is at the core of employer baseline skills.
The World Economic Forum compiled a list of future skills expected to be in demand by 2020, compared with what was in demand in 2015.
It’s especially important to note that many of these skills are not the exclusive domain of Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines. This list clearly indicates the importance of the social sciences and humanities. We need Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math (STEAM)
Soft Skills Through a Diversity Lens
The concept of soft skills itself can be ambiguous for employers and job seekers and may rely on subjective interpretation, though generally, they encompass interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and an entrepreneurial mindset.
As research from the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University points out in its report, “Soft Skills Are Hard”, employer assessments of soft skills amongst potential employees can become somewhat problematic when benchmarks are inconsistent within the same professional, academic and industry groups. Assessing such a skill set can also pose problems.
According to the report, a diversity lens is critical. “Because of the way in which soft skills are learned, many segments of the population are disadvantaged in access to the coaching, training and role models needed to develop these skills and cultural biases may play a role in the definition and assessment of soft skills,” the report states.
More research is needed to develop methods and approaches to assess empirically the ways in which soft skills can be defined, developed and evaluated.
The future of work is rapidly changing and we need to ensure Canadians are equipped with the skills to succeed. I believe Canada is moving in the right direction and we have a lot of committed organizations and people working on these challenges. We also need to remember that…
– soft skills are critical. We need to focus on STEAM, not just STEM
– we need collective action for systemic change. It is not the sole responsibility of any one stakeholder group. Governments, our education system, our employment, and training systems, and employers all need to work together
-we need to focus on diversity and inclusion to ensure inclusive economic development and jobs for all