Digital skillsfor the4thIndustrialRevolution - what do wereally need?

By 2030 the job market will look dramatically different, children entering primary school will move into careers we have never even heard of today.

The fourth industrial revolution is upon us, the term Industry 4.0 is already a part of our daily language to describe the current trend of automation, cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things and cognitive computing.

But how well prepared are we for this current revolution which is already showing itself to be fast paced and far reaching?

The Governments Modern Industrial Strategy outlines five core principles of productively: innovative ideas, people and jobs, major infrastructure upgrades, business environment and places for more prosperous communities, and calls for strategies to address the great challenges of growing the artificial intelligence and data driven economy; shifting towards green growth; shaping the future of mobility and meeting the needs of an aging society.

As a core enabler to achieve these aims of productivity and to meet the challenges, policymakers consider digital skills to be a top priority for investment as they are considered to offer people greater employability and job resilience.

But are all digital skills of equal important? A report by Nesta on ‘Which digital skills do you really need?’ says the skills most likely to be needed are the ones that are used in non-routine tasks such as problem-solving and the creation of digital outputs, such as animation, multimedia production, design in engineering, building and maintaining IT systems and networks and research and quantitative data analysis.

While on the flip side, the least promising digital skills will be in invoice processing and management of accounts using accounting software, data input and preparation of payroll and tax reports, clerical duties (e.g. typing, using a word processor, spreadsheets, email and calendar software), sales support and processing of orders in sales management systems, and stock and inventory management using inventory control systems.

Research by Deloitte forecasts that around 35 per cent of current jobs in the UK are at high risk of computerisation over the next 20 years.

It is expected that skills of employees will need to change over the next ten years to focus on ‘digital know-how’, ‘management’ and ‘creativity’.

As a 21st Century skill, creativity is emerging as one of the top three soft skills workers will need as well as digital know-how. Encouraging young people and adults to engage with technology and digital skills will help our current and future workforce become ‘digital makers’ rather than just digital users, enabling them to be more creative and productive.

For innovation to succeed within our businesses and organisations in the post Brexit era, we will need to cultivate creativity as well as encouraging disrupters into our businesses.

Looking at examples of education systems overseas, it is clear that STEM subjects are important, but it doesn’t tell the full story. Many founders of new and innovative companies are not students of STEM, such as Steve Jobs (arts) and Mark Zuckerberg (psychology).

Singapore’s Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says, “What we should aspire for is holistic education. We want our humanists to understand technology and our technologists to understand the humanities."

Change won’t wait for us: parents, business leaders, educators and governments all need to be proactive in ensuring our current and future workforce are equipped and will benefit from the Fourth Industrial Revolution.