And why a college degree may be less valuable in the future
You can keep the robots at bay.
Robots may be coming for your job, multiple new studies reveal: Automation and artificial intelligence technology will displace 75 million jobs globally by 2022, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum — though, in their view, these factors will also create 133 million jobs.
Other researchers aren’t so optimistic: Robots could steal roughly four in 10 U.S. jobs (38%) within about 15 years, according to a report by accounting and consulting firm PwC released in 2017. “There will be many millions more people and possibly millions fewer jobs globally in the future,” according to the Pew Research Center. “Human workers are often less efficient; they are quirky and costly; and they can’t work 24/7/365. In order to be competitive and survive, decision-makers in government and those who run for-profit and nonprofit enterprises turn to automated solutions.”
To keep up with the robot revolution, workers will need to learn new skills. Indeed, the WEF noted that “by 2022, no less than 54% of all employees will require significant re- and upskilling. Of these, about 35% are expected to require additional training of up to six months, 9% will require reskilling lasting six to 12 months, while 10% will require additional skills training of more than a year.”
So what exactly will you need to learn to keep your job — or score a robot-proof one? The WEF notes that while technology skills are, of course, going to matter, “human skills” may increase in value, including creativity, originality and initiative, critical thinking, persuasion and negotiation. The organization adds that: “emotional intelligence, leadership and social influence as well as service orientation also see an outsized increase in demand relative to their current prominence.”
And a survey of more than 1,400 technologists, futurists and scholars, released last year by the Pew Research Center came to similar conclusions. “The vast majority of these experts wrestled with a foundational question: What is special about human beings that cannot be overtaken by robots and artificial intelligence?” says Lee Rainie, director of internet, science and technology research at Pew Research Center and co-author of the report. “They were focused on things like creativity, social and emotional intelligence, critical thinking, teamwork and the special attributes tied to leadership.”
Indeed, the report reveals that it will likely be “tough-to-teach intangible skills, capabilities and attributes,” including those listed above — as well as things like curiosity and empathy — that “will be most highly valued” in the 21st century job force. “Increasingly, machines will perform tasks they are better suited to perform than humans, such as computation, data analysis and logic,” says Susan Price, a digital architect at Continuum Analytics who Pew was interviewed for the piece. And that means that for humans “functions requiring emotional intelligence, empathy, compassion, and creative judgment and discernment will expand and be increasingly valued in our culture.”
The four year-college plan may face some challenges too: “While the traditional college degree will still hold sway in 2026, more employers may accept alternate credentialing systems as self-directed learning options and their measures evolve,” the report reveals. “The proof of competency may be in the real-world work portfolios.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean that hard skills — things like coding or writing — won’t still be valued. And there are some jobs that are less at risk from robots in the coming decades than others.
This story was originally published in May 2017 and has been updated.
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