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Robot-Ready: Human+ Skills for the Future of Work
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Robot-Ready: Human+ Skills for the Future of Work

Each month the MPACE Professional Development & Education Committee highlights trends in the profession from industry leaders and peer publications.

The following summary reviews the report “Robot-Ready: Human+ Skills for the Future of Work” by the Strada Institute for the Future of Work & Emsi.

Article Summary:
 
“Our Robot Future”
The world of work is changing rapidly, according to a recent report by the Strada Institute for the Future of Work & Emsi. With technological advances, some are suggesting that the first people to live to be 150 have already been born, meaning our work lives may extend 80-100 years. Machine learning and deep learning will lead to much more automation, with McKinsey estimating that approximately half of the work currently related to $15 trillion in wages globally will become automated. The rise of automation will lead to an increased need and opportunity for those with social and emotional capabilities.
 
Both human and technical skills will be important moving forward. A “both, and” attitude celebrates the importance of each skill set realm. The last few decades have witnessed a decline in the enrollment of liberal arts majors in favor of career-oriented majors, reigniting the importance for liberal arts programs to purposefully develop the “both, and” mindset by instilling human+ skills in graduates.
 
The report defines liberal arts as including interdisciplinary degrees, humanities, and social sciences. While liberal arts majors do not catch up to STEM graduates in earnings, they do well in the labor market, achieving well beyond workers with less education. They also experience faster wage growth in their late 30s and early 40s, the fastest among majors. Interestingly, liberal arts graduates make up a larger percentage of the tech workforce than graduates in technical disciplines do. As workers progress in their careers, they recognize the power of combining tech fluency with human skills. 
 
“A Rosetta Stone for Skills for the Future”
The handoff between education and employment can be improved. Economist Anthony Carnevale identified that “our postsecondary education and training system and labor market information systems remain disconnected…” Two Gallup surveys found that while 96 percent of chief academic officers believe they are doing well in preparing their students for employment, only 11 percent of business leaders feel that graduates have the necessary skillsets. Between 2015 and 2018, over 240 new companies originated to tackle issues such as supply-demand mismatch, workplace competencies, tech skills, and training. One such company, Emsi, extracts skills from job postings, social profiles, and resumes to identify connections between occupational classifications and knowledge and skill clusters. Skills like leadership, research, and communication are most in demand; however, employers and educators understand these terms differently. For example, within the disciplines of marketing and PR, communication translates into skill in social media marketing, brand management, advertising campaigns, etc. Educators should communicate to liberal arts students that they need to augment their undergraduate involvement with technical skill training. If educators were to embrace the “both, and” mentality, students would be able to deliver more immediate value to their first employer, not just subsequent employers.
 
“A Case for Problem-Based Learning”
While employers will continue to seek out candidates with emotional intelligence, ethics, and strong communication skills, in the future in-demand skills will consist of closer interaction between humans and machines. A shift in the current system of higher education will have to take place, including the incorporation of curriculum moving away from memorization and standardized testing to problem-based inquiry. If educators teach their subjects in silos, students may have difficulty understanding the context of one subject to the next. Problem-based learning may help blur boundaries between departments so that students stay on top of new skill sets in areas like data analytics and blockchain that will be needed for the job market.

“Taxonomy Matters…A Lot”
The concept of a career looks much different today, and the number of jobs held will increase with time and technology advances. Workers recognize that they will need to learn new skills, especially as life spans extend. The Council on Foreign Relations recently suggested that lifelong learning and retraining would become the new standard, which could create a financing challenge for workers. In the future, there will also be additional need to assess capabilities, skill sets, and mindsets in order for an employee to transition between different careers.
 
Implications for Career Center Professionals
Institutions of higher learning should embed career services early on in the learning experience to help students understand pathways and technical skills needed for the job market. Career services staff members and educators should collaborate to prepare students to learn skills shaped by advances in technology, like deep learning and robotics. Career center professionals should also advocate for students to attain learning opportunities (internships, co-ops, experiential learning, bootcamps) that cultivate technical skills and allow students to apply their human skills.
 
Implications for Recruiting Professionals and Employers
Employers should work with educators and career services professionals to more effectively translate the human and technical skills they desire. They may also consider more skills-based hiring and re-envision on-the-job training programs to cultivate workers’ skills. 

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