Technology has always been a disruptor in the workplace. As new inventions and products hit the consumer market, the job market is affected accordingly. Some of these developments are gradual. Others are almost immediately disruptive. When the horseless carriage (automobile) was introduced in the early 20th century, an economy built around horses, carriages and stables made a rapid transition to an industrial factory-based workforce.
Similarly, when the internet was made widely available to the public in the early-mid 1990s, it rapidly changed the way businesses interacted with their customers. Companies like Blockbuster Video, Radio Shack, and Borders Books were slow to pivot and eventually went out of business completely. Many brick-and-mortar stores are still struggling to stay afloat.
On October 20, 2020, the World Economic Forum published their Future of Jobs Report 2020. In their 163 page report, they predict similar disruption due to new technologies in the very near future. In fact, it’s already begun.
Many jobs have already begun to be eliminated due to automation and artificial intelligence (AI). One might think that blue-collar jobs would be the prime suspect. While they are certainly on the list, there are significantly more white-collar jobs that are being targeted. Some of the more common targeted occupations are:
- Data Entry Clerks
- Administrative and Executive Secretaries
- Accounting, Bookkeeping and Payroll Clerks
- Accountants and Auditors
- Assembly and Factory workers
- Business Services and Administrative Auditors
Jobs and Skills on the Rise
WEF predicts that 85 million jobs that exist today will be displaced by 2025 – less than five years from now. However, along with the bad news, there is some optimism. They also predict that 97 million jobs will emerge as a result in the growth in technology – a net increase of 12 million jobs in the next five years.
Jobs that are currently on the rise and will continue rapid growth include:
- Data Analysts
- AI and Machine Learning Specialists
- Robotics Engineers
- Software Developers
- Process Automation Specialists
- Information Security Analysts
- Internet of Things Specialists
In addition to the above roles, employers of those roles will be looking for the following key skills:
- Analytical thinking and innovation
- Active learning and learning strategies
- Complex problem-solving
- Critical thinking and analysis
- Creativity, originality and initiative
- Leadership and social influence
- Technology use, monitoring and control
- Technology design and programming
How to stay ahead of the curve
Depending on your current job, education and knowledge level, this may seem like ominous information. If you are on the list of targeted jobs, you may have already seen some of the writing on the wall. Either way, it’s time to take notice and make some proactive changes before it is too late. No one out there wants to be the next Blockbuster Video.
As automation and AI become commonplace, develop skills that allow you to be part of the trend rather than a victim of it. The areas of technology that are predicted to be in greatest demand are:
- Big data
- Internet of things
- Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
- Computer security, specifically in encryption technologies
- Cloud Computing
Many people may look at those areas and have some familiarity with what they are. Others may see it as a list of foreign topics that have little to no meaning.
If you plan to be in the workforce over the next five years, you need to accept the harsh reality. Regardless of your familiarity or current knowledge, you need to develop some in-depth knowledge of at least one of these technologies as soon as possible.
Contrary to the common maxim, it is possible for old dogs to learn new tricks. I recently took a training class where some of the attendees were in their mid-60s. Regardless of your current age, you can always learn new technologies and skills. You will find that accepting that fact is the greatest hurdle to overcome.
There are many routes one can go to get trained and educated on these technologies and skills.
Government-funded training: Federal and state governments provide subsidized funding for many of these areas. You can do your own research and check into some of the following sources:
State-level funding obviously varies by state. Look up your state’s education department website to see if they offer grants to modernize your skills. You may even contact your senator or local representative as they may have an inside track on that information.
Employer-sponsored training: As insecure as you may feel about these looming changes in the market, your employer may be even more anxious. If they are forward thinking, they may be willing to sponsor training in one or more of these areas. Speak with your manager about options you may have for training that they might send you to. If that is not an option, contact your human resources department and see if they have information.
Learn on your own: While getting government funding or employer-assisted training are excellent routes, you are the one that is ultimately responsible for your career and your future.
There are many ways to learn these technologies and skills on your own.
Books: There is a myriad of books on any of these topics. If you know nothing, start with the “Dummy’s” series. You can find an introductory book on any of the emerging technologies. Start with that and gradually increase the level of detail.
Training classes: There are training classes on all of the emerging technology areas. Ideally, you will find one that will train you on getting a certification in that area.
Some of these classes are expensive. While you may find government funding for a portion or all of the cost, you may have to pay it out of pocket. Don’t let this deter you from doing it. An investment of a couple thousand dollars in training is a great deal better than being unemployed with no marketable skills.
Online resources: There is an overabundance of free information available on the internet. There are YouTube videos, blogs, articles and free eBooks available on all of these topics. Take the opportunity to investigate some of this information and self-teach yourself. You may find it more interesting than you ever imagined.
You aren’t as behind as you may think
If you have little or no knowledge of these topics, you may feel overwhelmed. You may think you are so far behind the curve that you will never catch up to the market.
It’s not as bad as you think. It is true that there are a large number of lucky people out there that have these skills. But these technologies are still comparatively new. You are actually in that sweet spot of the curve between demand and availability of information.
The demand over the next few years for this knowledge will greatly exceed the available skills in the market. The earlier you start learning it, the sooner a company will pick you up with those beginning to intermediate skills and help you develop into an expert.
These areas of technology are also just mature enough that there is a lot of information available at your fingertips. You just need to reach out and spend the time and money to learn them.
There is a famous Chinese proverb that says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” You may not have gotten involved in these areas of knowledge when they were first emerging. But regardless of your age or current familiarity, the opportunity is there today.
What is stopping you from learning something new today?
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
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