Now is the time to get your skills sharpened for tomorrow’s occupations

SUMMARY:

It’s our collective responsibility to ensure innovation benefits all of us and not just those who currently work in the tech sector, because all of the UK will benefit from proper training and skills enhancement, says Salesforce’s Gavin Mee.

If somebody told you that the majority of today’s school children will hold jobs that haven’t even been invented yet, would you believe them?

Researchers and academics agree that this is likely to become true. And according to the World Economic Forum,  65% of tomorrow’s jobs don’t even exist today. Surprised? Well, when you take a step back and look at the massive torrent of innovation we’re witnessing in business today, this statistic makes a lot of sense.

Just think of where we’ve come in the past ten years: the increasing ubiquity of driverless cars and drones. 3D printing technology that makes everything from a human ear to a bespoke pair of designer trainers. AI software that accurately predicts what we’re going to buy next. Throw in the explosion of connected devices that we use everywhere, every day, and the picture becomes clearer.

For those of us working in the technology sector this level of innovation is incredibly exciting – but it does bring with it a weight of responsibility. As an industry we need to work together to ensure that everyone in the UK is set up to reap the benefits of these advances and has the necessary skills to do the new jobs. We might have some of the hottest tech start-ups and best research universities in the world but that doesn’t mean that average worker here has the right digital skills.

This is all the more urgent, because we’re already in the midst of a skills shortage. According to the Hays Global Skills Index, 2016 was the fifth year of the UK’s ever-increasing skills shortage – a shortage that every IT department – private or public sector – will have felt, as it’s centered on tech roles.

Government response

In response, the government has made a series of commitments to increase digital skills and improve technical education in the UK. Its Industrial Strategy, Digital Strategy and the Spring Budget all included measures to improve the UK’s digital IQ. It’s vital that this focus on skills continues, and is matched by private sector efforts.

It’s essential that the technology industry steps up to the mark and plays its part here. For our part, Salesforce offers free technical and business skills training through Trailhead, an online programme that provides anybody with the opportunity to learn Salesforce technology alongside essential business skills. With the 86,000 Salesforce-based jobs that we expect to be created in the UK between now and 2020, these skills are in high demand.

More than 25,000 people have used Trailhead in Europe, from a wide variety of professional backgrounds. It’s great to see many other tech companies stepping up and offering digital apprenticeships and free online training as well, because we believe that learning is critical to ensure that our society is ready to take up the new jobs that will become available in the near future.

It’s important that these efforts continue to focus on all sections of society – in around 15 years’ time, nearly a quarter of the UK workforce will be over 50 – but learning systems such as Trailhead ensure that this generation has the ability to learn new skills and find new passions.

Of course, it’s especially important to get our youths ready to take their roles in the work world, and even at an early age, it’s great to get kids learning about the importance of technology – which is why throughout the UK, coding clubs for children are becoming more popular and broadening their reach.

For example, this week, Salesforce World Tour London will host a “London Codes” coding club for visually impaired youth, teaching them skills that will help them access the fast-changing world of work. And organisations like The Challenge, which offers young people from diverse backgrounds programmes to enhance tech and other skills, are flourishing too.

But this is no time to rest and relax. It’s time to upskill. Artificial intelligence and automation are already impacting the structure of businesses and will continue to do so, with fewer unskilled jobs available. As a result many workers will need to ensure they can train for new roles. The scale of this challenge really is unprecedented. The digital economy is already a bigger size than the oil economy, and the World Economic Forum estimates that it will reach a whopping £78 trillion by 2025. It’s only by making a start now and everyone getting involved that we can successfully tackle it.

As leaders in a highly successful industry – and as good citizens – I feel that it’s our collective responsibility to ensure innovation benefits all of us and not just those who currently work in the tech sector – because all of the UK will benefit from proper training and skills enhancement. And the products, services, and innovations that arise from this new set of skills can help enhance the world at large. Now that’s a goal to aim for!

Image credit - Freeimages.com/Alx Sanchez

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