Careers

Study: Human+ Skills Are Imperative to Future Careers

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Imagine this scenario: You select the college that best fits your goals. You’re accepted and begin to take different courses that explore your pathway. You learn the skills you need and find internships along the way that point you toward potential careers. Now, as you’re planning to land an interview, you find out an algorithm just started doing the job you were hoping to find. Could it really happen?

Artificial intelligence and automation are constantly and rapidly changing the world of work. Technological changes are predicted to bring massive job obsolescence and simultaneously give rise to entirely new types of jobs. But could your education and career planning actually be upended by a robot? Not if you take steps to robot-proof your education and career, according to the new report Robot-Ready: Human+ Skills for the Future of Work.


Combine Skills for Success

The good news is that we all have skills that make us uniquely human, which robots can’t duplicate. The report analyzed over 100 million job postings, resumes and social profiles, and found that human skills like leadership, research, writing and communication are among the most in-demand in the workplace today. Combining these human skills with technical knowledge is the best way to prepare for future careers, according to the report’s findings.

Skills like communications, problem-solving, management, teamwork and judgement are all in demand by employers. The report recommends combining these skills with technical skills: Programming + ethics, artificial intelligence + emotional intelligence, or logic + judgment. It makes little sense to pit technical knowledge against human skills -- especially when both are in high demand by employers today.

“As technology continues to advance, the line between soft and hard skills is disappearing,” said Michelle Weise, PhD, chief innovation officer at Strada Institute for the Future of Work. “What matters is whether a skill is ‘human’ or can be performed by machines,” added Weise, who was one of the report’s authors.

Highlighting Liberal Arts

The old way of thinking about a STEM education versus liberal arts is a false choice, the report notes. In the past -- and even today -- some people believed that the “hard” skills of science, technology, engineering and math were most critical to careers. Others said that the uniquely human skills learned in the liberal arts were the ones that will endure in the face of automation. In fact, it’s both, and that makes a lot of sense. The integration of human and technical skills will provide the best preparation for the future of work.

Think of it as human+ skills. This combination will be critical to future-proofing your career no matter what your major, in any program. The fact that these skills are traditionally associated with the liberal arts doesn’t mean STEM majors should stop reading this. Technical skills are the very ones that are being automated. The most valuable workers now and in the future will be those who can combine technical knowledge with human skills. The key is to stop thinking about one or the other, and start thinking about both.

Students who have moved in large numbers to career-oriented majors such as business, health and engineering should cultivate their human skills, while liberal arts majors should add technical skills. And plan on flexibility – it’s one of those human skills that everyone will need as work lives begin to stretch well beyond the age of 65. Predictions are that the first people to live beyond 150 years have already been born. You may be one of them!

Just think, you may be the first generation of college graduates with a 100-year professional life. What kind of skills are you going to use in a world that can’t even be imagined? Whatever they are, you will surely need a strong foundation of human skills combined with new technical knowledge to meet your goals.