Skills that will be relevant in 2030 job market

In early 2020, the World Economic Forum launched the Reskilling Revolution, a multi-stakeholder initiative aiming to future-proof workers from technological change and help economies by providing new skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution by 2030.  India too has joined as a founding government member of the forum.
The 2030 job economy will have more tech-centric skill demand. To be job-ready for the market tomorrow, every third employee must undergo reskilling. Rudimentary jobs have already been taken by automation. AI is already able to complete basic tasks, and its effectiveness will improve. Human workers, then, will need to develop advanced technical skills to shepherd that technology’s development.
Statistics coming from global organizations re-emphasize the need for reskilling for the 2030 job market.
  1. The OECD estimates that 1.1 billion jobs are liable to be radically transformed by technology in the next decade.
  2. As per the World Economic Forum, nearly half of the core skills are set to change by 2022 alone.
  3. In 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that as many as 375 million workers—or 14 percent of the global workforce—would have to switch occupations or acquire new skills by 2030 because of automation and artificial intelligence.
Also, with COVID-19’s impact on the business world, the need for reskilling and re-learning is now felt strongly from the organizational to the individual level. Adapting employees’ skills and roles to the post-pandemic ways of working will be crucial to building operating-model resilience.
Three skills that will have a high impact on the 2030 job market are:
1. Tech Skills
For some time now, parents have urged their children to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects to ensure their future employability. And the economy has cried out for more skilled workers in these fields. In 2030, these skills are going to be even more important.
Demand for coding and programming, for example, will likely increase by 55 percent by 2030, Jacques Bughin, Susan Lund, and Eric Hazan at McKinsey explained. This is inevitable as AI, machine learning, and data science grow in importance. But the challenge is to prepare students and workers for problems and scenarios the world has not yet encountered.
Therefore, in order to equip individuals to successfully participate in the world of work and enable businesses to find the skills they need to be competitive, we must focus on upskilling and reskilling.
Experts say that though technological skills will be highly in demand, tomorrow’s candidates will also bring to the table strong critical thinking and social skills.
2. Social and Emotional Skills
Technology will add efficiencies and remove mundane and repetitive tasks from the workforce, but this means people skills will matter much more.
As per an OECD report, there is empirical evidence that proves that social and emotional skills directly affect a variety of job outcomes, such as occupational status and income, on top of their indirect effect through educational outcomes.
Another report shows that self-management, personal agility, and resilience to weather change will be vital, especially for those looking for roles with mid- to higher-skill employers.
Similar conclusions come from James Manyika et al in a 2017 McKinsey Global Institute report. The authors say machines will complete all of the predictable physical activities, plus data capture and processing. Humans will have more time to focus on people.
That’s where social and emotional skills like empathy come into play. Whether that’s colleagues collaborating on a project, senior personnel leading teams, or employees managing clients, being able to see another’s perspective is a valuable skill.  Employees should regularly self-assess their skillfulness and find opportunities to practice these skills not just at work but in all aspects of their lives. After all, being good with people is not just a workplace requirement.
3. Higher Cognitive Skills
Another McKinsey report, Skill Shift Automation and the Future of the Workforce, predicts that by 2030 higher cognitive skills will increase in demand by 19 percent in the U.S. and by 14 percent in Europe. Creative professions will see the biggest surge for higher cognitive skills, the report says.
Other professions focused on higher cognition include:
  • Writers, editors, paralegals — advanced literacy
  • Financial analysts and accountants — quantitative and statistical skills
  • Doctors and insurance writers — critical thinking and decision-making
  • Purchasing agents and front-line supervisors
  • Market research analysts and lawyers — complex information processing and interpretation
  • PR specialists, music composers — creativity
Automation will also mean that some of the tasks in the professions above will be completed by machines. Already, AI has produced basic sports news reports, and banks are automating 70 percent of financial reporting tasks. The message is clear: Basic cognitive thinking will be replaced while higher cognition will increase in importance.
What Employers Can Do to Build This Future Workforce
The McKinsey report highlights a few key actions that employers will likely consider to create their workforce of the future. These are intricately linked to automation.
The first step is to retrain and build the skills of current employees. Another option is to hire entry-level employees to train and shape them to fit the future demands. Training will be more complex, continuous, take longer, and require a greater investment than in the past. Equally, the in-demand soft skills such as empathy, people management, and communication, along with the intrinsic skills of critical thinking or creativity, will require nurturing, not rote training.
Further, employees with specific skills might need to be moved around the organization so their talents land where they are most needed. This might require changing a person’s responsibilities or allocating specific employees to more important tasks.
Technology is changing the way we work, and it’s happening quickly. Employees need to commit to a lifetime of professional learning and development. Employers should find effective ways to deliver this training to them. Planning ahead by focusing on technological, emotional, and social, and higher cognitive skills will prepare organizations for the future.
(The author is Managing Director, Eightfold India)
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