From education to employment

How can we prepare the future workforce for the era of AI?

Iffi Wahla, co-founder and CEO of global hiring platform Edge, addresses the digital skills gap in this article, looking at the skills that businesses need today, and how organisations can help people to future-proof their skills

Ensuring a Future-Ready Workforce

There is no question that today’s workplace is more reliant than ever before on technology. Businesses cannot escape the importance of harnessing new technology to drive efficiencies and remain competitive. Yet despite the digital times that we live in, the reality is that business leaders are finding it increasingly challenging to find top level talent able to offer the evolving skill sets required to work effectively with the latest technology. We are facing a significant skills gap globally, with the World Economic Forum stating in the Future of Jobs Report 2023 that 6 in 10 workers will require training by 2027 as adoption of technology increases.

This means that many companies are struggling with keeping up to speed with adoption of the latest technology, as their teams lack the digital skills required to do so. So, as technology continues to reshape the way we do business, how can we address this digital skills gap, and make sure that we have a workforce fit for the future?

Empowering Teams with Digital Skills

We are seeing advances in AI and automation that may seem hard to comprehend for many workers, and feel impossible to keep up with. The use of it will become increasingly common and ever more sophisticated. With this comes a requirement for businesses that want to be at the forefront of innovation to make sure that their team feels comfortable about AI and understand potential AI applications in their business.

Data analysis skills, for example, will be needed going forward, with the ability to critically and rigorously evaluate the data that a robot might be able to provide. When able to be used effectively, it can support and empower a modern team. At Edge, we are fortunate to work with talented individuals across the globe who have these skills at their fingertips, and have seen the benefits of the globalisation of recruitment today, with businesses able to search without borders for their employees. And yet, we know that still far too many business leaders say that they are struggling to find people with skills for the modern workplace.

The next crucial step therefore is to support employees and the workforce of the future as they to learn to work alongside AI. They need to have a decent understanding of the workings of AI, and the necessary digital skills at their fingertips to allow them to utilise the potential on offer. We need to see more of a drive both from leaders in governments and business to reassess the way that we encourage people to reskill and prepare themselves for the changes in the job market.

Beyond ‘Self-Belief’ – A Call for Strategic Investment in Skill Development for the AI Era

Baroness Morgan’s recent call for a new curriculum teaching character development to prepare students for the economy of the future should be lauded, as our workforce of the future needs better preparation for a different working world.

However, teaching people ‘self-belief’ to prepare them for an AI-led job market will only be a part of the story. The reality is that we need to see investment and a clear strategy from both government and business in building a highly skilled workforce able to take advantage of new innovations. To date that has been lacking – no one yet seems to have grasped the impact that it will have on the global economy over the next decade if this ticking time bomb is not addressed.

People can be guilty of thinking of upskilling as simply learning a new trade. But it is not just that – it’s about giving people the tools, insights and mentality they need to develop a huge range of skills applicable to different circumstances, and to allow themselves to remain relevant as we see further technological advances.

We aren’t talking about training legions of fully-fledged data scientists, for example, but are saying that we need to give everybody basic data skills so that they can apply this knowledge to their own professional circumstances. These individuals may go on to learn coding, marketing or IT skills that combine to make them a highly skilled worker in their field.

The benefits do not stop with the ability to make the most of innovations in AI. A workforce trained in a variety of cutting-edge skills is also much more flexible and resilient – people can more easily move between industries and it can be a key driver of innovation. The more people who can understand and use the latest tech, the greater the chance of new applications and consequently breakthroughs which create new industries.

It also can free up time to concentrate on developing and using skills that machines don’t yet have – strategy, innovating, complex problem-solving, and skills that require emotional intelligence and empathy. For businesses, the commercial rationale is clear. A better-trained team is more efficient, creative and effective. Might 2024 be the year that business leaders and decision-makers across the globe take action on building this workforce of the future?

By Iffi Wahla, co-founder and CEO of global hiring platform Edge

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