Overall, across the globe, problem-solving, the ability to work in a team, and communication, are considered to be the most important skills.

There are varying definitions of Global Skills, but most definitions include the following characteristics:

  • Global communication skills – Being able to communicate across cultures, including foreign language proficiency.
  • Global insight – Understanding and acceptance of different cultures, religions, economies, governments, and global issues.
  • Self-initiative – Capacity to take risks and not stand on the sidelines.
  • Global perspectives – The ability to communicate one’s own perspectives as well as the perspectives of others.

The world of work is changing so rapidly, as emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation change job requirements. As technologies continue to evolve and business conditions shift, employees must stay in learning mode so their skills don’t lose currency.

It’s one thing to keep up with skills as they’re changing in the here and now. It’s a whole different challenge to prepare yourself for tools and technologies that may exist only in the minds of engineers, if at all. Meanwhile, too many of us neglect to develop important soft skills when the need for hard skills feels so urgent, even though our ongoing career success depends on a healthy blend of the two.

Illustration: Shutterstock

Meet the Future—the Ability to Learn

There are so much uncertainty and ambiguity around the future of work, it doesn’t matter your industry or job function. That’s why, when anyone asks what the next “hot” skill will be, I say it’s the same skill that will serve people today, tomorrow, and far into the future—the ability to learn.

In an article in Forbes,

Learning drives adaptability

When people embrace lifelong learning, assimilating new skills isn’t a source of fear and stress—it’s just another part of their career journey. Separating process from outcome will make you a better learner too, as you get less fixated on immediate mastery of a skill and more appreciative of how moving outside your comfort zone helps you grow as a person.

A learning mindset also makes it less likely you’ll be thrown off or immobilized when a project changes the scope or a job function undergoes a transformation. While others scramble to figure out where to go from here, lifelong learners maintain momentum and productivity.

It’s critical, however, to include soft skills in the equation too. At a minimum, they provide the foundation for hard skills to reach their full potential. But soft skills are also things that can’t be replaced by automation, such as leadership, judgment, and critical thinking. In the face of fast and furious change, soft skills help professionals work smarter.

Companies want avid lifelong learners

When we talk about the skills gap, we tend to focus on the disconnect between the skills college grads have when they hit the job market and the skills employers seek in new hires. That’s a real challenge, without question, but what about workers who are already a few years (or more) into their careers? Their skills gap will grow every year unless they continue actively learning new skills and technologies.

Once someone earns a reputation as a capable and enthusiastic learner, they’re far more likely to be tapped by decision makers for worthwhile opportunities, like a high-profile project or open management role. And they’ll be better prepared to take full advantage of those opportunities.

Corporate leaders would be wrong to dismiss learning and development as just something to make employees “happy.” Companies with a learning-driven culture reap the rewards in plenty of ways that go straight to the bottom line. For one thing, they can effectively close their own skills gaps by offering robust L&D opportunities to existing staff, thereby lowering the considerable costs associated with sourcing, hiring, and onboarding new talent. They can also spur innovation by allowing people to learn (and work) across functions, which brings fresh ideas and points of view into play.

Curiosity is career fuel

To stay engaged in your job and career, you need to pull your head out of the daily weeds. Understanding how your efforts fit into the bigger picture will give your work more meaning and give you new ideas to apply, so you don’t burn out or stagnate. Learning about something you’re curious about, even if it’s not immediately applicable to your job, expands your thinking, and that’s relevant to everything you do.

If “the next hot skill” is an unknown, following your curiosity—about your industry, community, world—can give you direction and inspiration. It’s also a good idea to scan descriptions of intriguing jobs to see where you should strengthen your skills or may have a gap.

No matter where you picture yourself going in your professional life, you’re going to have to learn new skills. This can be scary, exciting, paralyzing, motivating, or some combination thereof. Rather than think of learning as forcing down bad-tasting medicine, you should consider learning the magic elixir that facilitates everything else you do. It’s the one skill that can take all of your other skills to the next level and will be there for you at every stage of your career, no matter what else changes in our unpredictable world.

Team of business people debating during a work meeting. Photo: Jono Erasmus

Global skills like problem-solving, the ability to work in a team, and communication performance.

Two-thirds of the world’s population is falling behind in critical skills, including 90% of developing economies. Countries that rank in the lagging or emerging categories (the bottom two quartiles) in at least one domain make up 66% of the world’s population, indicating a critical need to upskill the global workforce. Such a large proportion of ill-prepared workers calls for greater investment in learning to ensure they remain competitive in the new economy.

Many countries with developing economies—and with less to invest in education—see stronger skill deficiencies, with 90% ranking in the lagging or emerging categories. Traditionally these countries prospered by using low-skilled labour to export goods to the developed world. Now, however, technological innovation is opening the door to new growth models, creating more opportunities for these countries to obtain skills of the future. [2]

The illustration from the report [3] shows the importance of global skills (light blue) and how satisfied the industry is with the candidates from the Universities when it comes to their view of the student’s skills (dark blue).

It is commonly perceived that employers feel there is a graduate skills gap, suggesting that universities do not necessarily provide enough opportunities for students to develop skills critical for the labour market.

The graduate labour market is full of expectations – from both graduates and employers. Arguably, graduates are in a tougher position, both due to their lack of work experience and also because they need to understand what is expected of them, demonstrate it during the recruitment process and ultimately appeal to their future employer. This equation is of course not complete without the university – one bridge between graduates and employers, and the place where students are expected to gain many of the skills necessary for entering employment, often, for the very first time.[3]

The top three skills employers unanimously want to see in graduates are problem-solving, teamwork, and communication. On the student side, the three most important skills they believe ‘employers value most in new recruits, and hence they would like to develop at university’ are creativity, organisational and problem-solving skills. Problem-solving is the only skill that features on both the student and employer list of top three priorities. There is clearly a mismatch overall. [2]

Skills in Business, Technology, and Data Science

The Global Skills index 2019 highlight skills within the business, technology, and data science. The report underlines the importance of that kind of skills in a country. The report concludes that Europe is the global skills leader while the United States must upskill the population. The general picture for the Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, and Latin America show high skill inequality. The report argues as following [2]:

Europe is a global skills leader.

European countries make up over 80% of the cutting-edge category (top quartile globally) across Business, Technology, and Data Science. Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Norway, and the Netherlands are consistently cutting-edge in all three domains. This advanced skill level is likely a result of Europe’s heavy institutional investment in education via workforce development and public education initiatives. Skill performance in Europe still varies, though.

Countries in Eastern Europe with less economic stability don’t perform as well as Western Europe in the three domains; Turkey, Ukraine, and Greece consistently land in the bottom half globally.

The Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, and Latin America have high skill inequality.

Consistent with the vast economic and cultural diversity that characterizes each region, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, and Latin America have the greatest within-region skill variance. The Asia Pacific is at the extremes of the global Business rankings with New Zealand (#6) and Australia (#9) approaching the very top, while Pakistan (#57) and Bangladesh (#59) land at the bottom. In the Middle East and Africa, Israel is a leader in each of the three domains and #1 in Data Science, while Nigeria lags near the bottom of the rankings across domains, and is last in Data Science. In Latin America, Argentina’s #1 ranking in Technology is in stark contrast to Mexico’s (#43) and Colombia’s (#49) lower proficiencies in the field.

The United States must upskill while minding regional differences.

Although known as a business leader for innovation, the U.S. hovers around the middle of the global rankings and is not cutting-edge in any of the three domains. While there’s a need for increased training across the U.S., skill levels vary between sub-regions. The West leads in Technology and Data Science, reflecting the concentration of talent in areas like Silicon Valley. The Midwest shines in Business, ranking first or second in every competency except Finance. The South consistently ranks last in each domain and competency, suggesting a need for more robust training programs in the sub-region.

Life Long Learning. Photo: alfa27

The Future Needs Many Different Kinds of Skills.

In this article, we have shown that the future needs many different kinds of skills. This is both technical skills like business skills, technology skills, and data science skills. In addition, the future needs global skills like problem-solving, the ability to work in a team, and communication. However, we need both as individuals and society to develop ourselves for the future. We need an open mindset and the ability to learn. We need life long learning. 

References

[1] Kevin H. Johnson: The Most Important Skill For 21st-Century Success, Forbes Jul 31, 2018

[2] Coursera: GLOBAL SKILLS INDEX 2019, The world’s top trending skills in Business, Technology, and Data Science benchmarked across 60 countries and 10 industries.

[3] The Institute of Student Employers; “The Global Skills Gap in the 21st Century”. QS Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd 2018


Lucubrate Magazine Issue 57, April 26th 2019

The picture on the top: Syda Productions

Categories: Lifelong Learning, Education, World, Magazine


Photo: KS
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Karl Skaar
Karl Skaar

Is a highly successful professional, with a high degree of entrepreneurial flair. Among the many different roles, he is the chief editor of the Lucubrate Magazine.

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