The Tools of a New Trade
Investing in human capital in a way that matches current skill gaps will be vital.
Investing in human capital in a way that matches current skill gaps will be vital. Yet with the technological advances of the Fourth Industrial Revolution set to revolutionise the way we work, and with the Arc itself boasting a dense concentration of highly innovative deeptech enterprises, we are faced with a challenge: how to ensure we invest in human capital in a way that meets the needs not just of today, but of tomorrow, and of the next century.
A report published in 2019 by Dell Technologies and the Institute for The Future made the claim that 85% of jobs available in 2030 to those currently in education do not yet exist. This is a high figure, and undoubtedly an ambitious one, but the truth of the matter is that the skills we need for the future are increasingly disconnected from our current education and training system. A welcome announcement in the 2021 Budget was the provision of £1.6bn to roll out new T-Levels for 16 to 19-year-olds, designed to offer a blend of classroom and on-the-job vocational training in partnership with local employers. No one doubts the necessity of traditional academic and humanities subjects at A-Level, but continued commitment to these new vocational training qualifications demonstrated not only an equitable way of investing in human capital – with learners of all types and abilities catered for in an environment which prioritises employment and practical skills – but a means to plug the skills gaps of the future.
A key hurdle which the new government policy on skills will have to clear is that of awareness and value.
According to Ofqual’s Perceptions of Vocational and Technical Qualifications in England report from June 2021, only 25% of learners in the UK have a good or very good understanding of T-Levels, with over 35% of learners having no understanding at all. Crucially, only 12% of employers were aware of T-Levels, when employers are meant to play a vital role in their delivery. The trust of levels of employers expressing trust in vocational qualifications remains low. The conclusion to be drawn from these figures is that greater awareness of skills-based education such as T-Levels needs to be fostered and the value of training and vocational qualifications, for many years considered the also-ran of the education system, has to be brought home.
We have already seen skill gaps emerge in the UK, but this disparity between the jobs that are necessary to keep society functioning and the people properly trained to do them – those that have learnt the tools of the new trades emerging across every sector due to the march of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – is only likely to grow unless greater action and awareness is fostered around the UK’s skills qualifications. A 2020 report from the World Economic Forum predicted that by 2025, 85 million jobs may be lost to automation, while 97 million new roles will emerge that require different skills. Some of these will reflect the changes that deeptech will bring to industry and the workforce, and new careers will undoubtedly be necessary to better reflect the relationship between people and machines. In the face of this change, the bold strategic planning that underpins the Arc concept has to include a commitment to invest in the human capital needs of the next generation.
It’s clear world of work is going to change – including the way human capital is identified and hired into roles.
Young people don’t need to be taught archaic interview and job application skills – many industries are a long way from the physical interviews and paper CVs still preached by school careers guidance – but instead need to be taught the skills necessary to land a job in the world of behavioural testing and the gamification of processes. With major employers including PwC and the Civil Service turning to gamification and algorithmic testing for the bulk of their interview process, the way human capital is assessed and sifted has already changed.
We need to ensure that education and training in the Arc is preparing people to go not just into the roles of today, but the roles of tomorrow as well. Those in education in the Arc today need to be aware of, and be trained to achieve, key roles in the future workforce including:
- data analysts and scientists
- big data specialists
- digital marketing and strategy specialists
- process automation specialists
- AI and machine learning specialists
- information security analysts
- software/applications developers
- digital transformation specialists
- internet of things specialists
One of the key skillsets of the next decades will be at the interface between people and artificial intelligence, with a raft of skills necessary at the junction between robotics, analytics and philosophy and ethics to properly manage it. The MIT Sloan Management Review for 2017 identified ‘trainers, explainers and sustainers’ as the three categories of new skills necessary for the new model of work alongside AI. The 2019 report by Dell Technologies and the Institute For The Future explained this as: ‘AI trainers will be needed to develop AI personalities and train them to convey empathy; AI explainers will be enlisted to elucidate algorithmic decision-making; and AI sustainers will seek to prevent AI from doing harm’. The new skills strategy such as the T-Level will have to accommodate the rise of automation and AI applied in practice in workplace, and not just in theory or in the laboratory.