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The Fourth Industrial Revolution—the huge technological change we have all been anticipating—is happening here and now. Entire industries are embracing artificial intelligence, robotics and cloud computing to create efficiencies, increase productivity, cut costs and improve safety.
In some cases, technology is even helping industries respond to global talent shortages. This means humans are being freed of repetitive and mundane tasks and can focus on skilled jobs that technology isn’t capable of performing as effectively.
Everyone should be well placed to get ahead of the digital revolution, but we cannot expect people to do it on their own.
Recent research from the OECD, supported by Randstad, reveals the profound impact technology is having on the labour market. It shows that demand for digital skills is soaring. In the United States alone, online job postings for digital jobs have grown 24% in the last four years, led by a 116% surge in adverts seeking data engineers.
There has long been concern and debate about whether this shift will be good for jobs; whether it will follow the pattern of other waves of technological change. The evidence is that it will be positive. In fact, it is also creating brand-new opportunities for workers with the digital skills needed to interact with, and work alongside, emerging technologies.
Despite these positive signs, more needs to be done to make sure its benefits are evenly distributed. Everyone should be well placed to get ahead of the digital revolution, but we cannot expect people to do it on their own.
More on the Forum Network: Meet the Future: How employers gain from helping young people get career ready by Anthony Mann, Senior Policy Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills, OECD
We need to help people collectively adapt, reskill and embrace technology, to find new opportunities and benefit from it. It will take a huge, co-ordinated effort, led by policymakers and businesses across four key areas.
Firstly, learning at all career stages needs to be prioritised. Employers lacking a reskilling and upskilling strategy for in-demand and emerging skills are at a significant competitive disadvantage. Through a more targeted learning and development strategy that can repurpose people with adjacent skills, companies can help their employees stay marketable and relevant in a highly dynamic labour market.
Boosting STEM skills
Secondly, policy should be shaped to encourage studies in future skills. STEM skills will become even more important as digitalisation accelerates in the global economy. Engineers, mathematicians and data scientists will be the backbone of a tech-driven society, so giving people guidance and incentives towards these career paths will help develop a relevant workforce.
With the right support from business leaders and policymakers, we can make sure the digital revolution is an equal one for all workers.
New social contract
Businesses should also embrace a new social contract with employees. To ensure employers have access to hard-to-find skills, the talent experience needs to be prioritised. The pandemic has changed the social contract workers have with employers, and expectations are for companies to provide more than a job and a paycheck. In fact, recent research from Randstad shows that talent are looking for empathetic employers that focus on workplace well-being, provide a pleasant work environment and offer career mobility and meaningful work. This includes a schedule that allows them to stay healthy and spend time with their loved ones.
Finally, employers need to double down on flexibility, as the global labour market will adapt to a more flexible way of working. Remote work and flexible schedules have become the norm in recent years, and the trend is expected to persist. Governments and companies will need to refine their policies and practices to empower digital natives and nomads to work in new and alternative ways.
We are in the middle of a profound shift in how we all work, and that brings changes and opportunities. According to the WEF, the digital transition could create close to 100 million jobs by 2025. This would exceed the 85 million jobs that could be displaced because of the shifting division of labour between humans and machines—but we need to help people learn the skills required for this new world of work. Without investments in the digitalisation of the labour market, people could be left behind. With the right support from business leaders and policymakers, we can make sure the digital revolution is an equal one for all workers.