Preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Top Skills and Careers



Ammar KAKA
Continuous learning, upskilling and reskilling will be essential for workers to keep up with a rapidly changing labour market, says Ammar Kaka, provost and vice principal of Heriot-Watt University Dubai.

Online food delivery. 3D printing. Smart robots. Autonomous vehicles. Genome engineering. The proof of spectacular innovation and transformation is all around us, and while it is transpiring at a meteoric speed, it is also creating a host of new job roles that demand an unprecedented set of skills.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known Industry 4.0, is disrupting and will continue to disrupt the way we live, learn and work. While certain jobs will fade away, others will flourish, and jobs that don't even exist today will become more commonplace. The coronavirus pandemic has probably accelerated that timeline substantially. What is clear is that the future workforce will need to match its skillset to the relentless pace of technology.

Both the youth and professionals of today need to build future resilient skills that will help them adapt and thrive.

The Skills in Demand

So, what are these key skills that will help candidates face the wave of the fourth industrial revolution?

Soft skills: The ability to interact, communicate and work together with a range of people, such as co-workers, clients and leadership, is what makes up soft skills. As people increasingly work beside robots, essential human skills – such as creativity, complex problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, emotional intelligence and people management – will be irreplaceable by machines. No robot can replace the perfect worker, or oversee a team, or play the role of a leader. Hence, leadership and managerial skills will continue to be integral. Communication skills will also remain crucial as employers will still need people to engage and build relationships both internally and externally. With the current emphasis on company culture and teamwork, emotional intelligence will continue to be a crucial element in building high performing teams and increasing motivation in the workplace. Social skills are equally important too, especially when it comes to building friendships and strong networks, which in turn is needed for personal development and career growth.

Technical skills: Technical or “hard” skills such as computer programming, coding, project management, financial management, scientific tasks, and technology-based skills represent the knowledge and capabilities required to perform job-specific tasks. As new job opportunities are being created due to technology, so is the demand for skilled professionals who possess industry-specific technical skills and targeted training. It is obvious that a strong set of technical skills will continue to be critical. It is, hence, crucial to determine and understand what the industry-specific demands are so that job-seekers are better prepared for the demands of these roles.

Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurship is the knowledge, the mind-set, and the ability to transform a potential work or business idea into a reality that includes not only those who set up a new business but also those who are described as self-starters within their work environment. As the gig economy grows, more and more young people will take the initiative to launch new ventures enabled by entrepreneurial skills such as innovation, creativity, diligence, resourcefulness, resilience, curiosity, optimism, risk appetite, courage, and business acumen. Hence, people who possess entrepreneurial skills would be better placed to navigate the changing job environment, and would be more likely to be resilient towards future challenges.

Jobs of the Future

So, what will be the most in-demand job roles in the future?

 Data Analysts and Data Scientists: Data science experts are desired in almost every field, from logistics and e-commerce to health-care and banking. Millions of companies and government entities depend on big data to succeed and better serve their customers. Data science careers are already soaring in demand and this trend will continue. Degree programmes in both data science and data analytics have been designed to develop the skills that employers are seeking and provide students with the opportunity to build hands-on experience prior to graduating. Deriving real business value from data needs a unique blend of technical skills, numerical knowledge, storytelling, and intuition.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) Specialists: AI is destined to create some of the most significant and disruptive innovations of this century. Autonomous cars, chat bots, and smart home devices are all the applications and creations of an evolving AI era that will redesign the way we live and work. In the future, more and more industries will be depending on artificial intelligence and machine learning, which will lead to an incredible growth in the job market for talented AI and ML specialists. No matter what the new AI economy means for the future workforce, young students and professionals will undoubtedly benefit from entering this growing field.

Digital Marketing Specialists: Digital marketing has taken over. Today's consumers have become extremely dependent on digital platforms for various purposes such as online shopping and telehealth. The field of digital marketing is booming and as the significance of online media grows, so does that of digital marketing. An accomplished digital marketer needs strong analytical thinking, a knack for creativity, and a data-informed decision-making approach. This is important because data now allows us to deploy marketing campaigns that provide Internet users with personalised products, communications, and suggestions. A career in digital marketing means a fast-paced environment where something new is just beyond the horizon. Digital marketers need to stay updated about new tools and changing guidelines governing the various channels; so lifelong learning is certainly a unique part of this field.

Internet of Things (IoT) Experts: International Data Corporation, a global market intelligence firm known as IDC, predicts that by 2025 there will be 55.7 billion connected devices worldwide, 75 percent of which will be connected to an IoT platform. Such an expansion will require the talent of IoT developers with the relevant set of skills to power these devices with functional software, which means higher demand and more jobs for IoT specialists. IoT is multilingual — it speaks many programming languages and needs experience with a wide variety of frameworks. Being able to operate at only one layer of an IoT architecture (which includes the device layer, the communication layer, the data management layer, the data analytics layer, and the user communication layer) is adequate to begin a successful career in IoT.

Cybersecurity Specialists: Cybersecurity vacancies are high in number. Cyberattacks are growing by the day, and although we mainly hear about attacks of high-profile entities in the news, no organisation or individual with an online presence is completely protected from such attacks. Moreover, due to the continuously evolving nature of cybersecurity threats, continuous professional development is incredibly important in the field of cybersecurity.

As a society, we need to consider how existing roles will change and how people with at-risk jobs can shift to roles where they work in tandem with technology and go on to add value on top of it. Besides the economic repercussions of the pandemic, the current times have brought us an opportunity to relook at education, training, and skills development.