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Will we have work in the future?

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Robots are writing symphonies, creating works of art that Rembrandt would be jealous of and even fooling matches on Tinder. Their capabilities are expanding at an exponential rate. Its impact is already being felt on the jobs market – with 5 million jobs already at risk of automation in the coming years.

While 50% of jobs will be lost to automation by 2020 the future is optimistic for jobseekers who are willing to upskill and really hone their social skills. Collaboration, cultural awareness, and creativity will become more important in the coming years as repetitive and manual tasks are at risk of automation. The areas most at risk will be accountancy, legal work and manufacturing. Even IBM’s Watson has his eye on becoming the world’s best doctor

But with disruption comes opportunity. Today’s most sought after jobs (such as app developers, bloggers, driverless car engineers) didn’t exist ten years ago. And with the current pace of change more jobs that we’ve never imagined will come into existence more rapidly than ever. Those who are able to keep up will have the advantage.

Take Barbara Beskind for example. She’s over 90 years old and is a designer at IDEO, the company that developed the first mouse for Apple. She commutes to the office once a week from a community for the elderly. Designers think differently when she’s in the room and she has been adding different perspectives to projects since she started.

Technology may be taking away with one hand but it’s offering a multitude with the other. Online courses are closing the global educational divide. Augmented reality will make upskilling that bit easier by offering a more experiential and practical training. This makes staying up to date with the skills that employers are really looking for more achievable.

However, these technical skills will need to be supplemented. It is social skills such as persuasion, emotional intelligence and cultural awareness that will be most valued. Managers, for example, will need to be able to manage diverse age groups and backgrounds. Many CEOs see cross-cultural competency as one of the most critical leadership skills. For example, even a simple meeting can descend into chaos if those attending lack cultural awareness. The Japanese take ten second pauses during conversations. In Western culture you might never get a word in edgewise if this approach was adopted. 

We need to focus less on disappearing jobs and more on future skillsets if we want to stay competitive. Work on your technical skills, transferable skills and social skills. These will be invaluable assets as automation maintains its rapid march on all areas of our lives.

Katie Ryan, Head of Research for the Future of Work Institute, spoke to Matt Cooper on whether or not we will have a job in the future

Listen to the interview here