The Future of Work and Skills

The world of work has without a doubt undergone substantial changes in the past few years and instead of the robot induced unemployment previously feared, the future of work is driven by the competing forces of innovation and automation. In this sense, technological progress has also significantly transformed gender roles. Female-led social enterprise, for example, has become vital to the new landscape of business as we’ve previously presented at London’s FutureFest just a few years back. Yet, rapid advancements in technology also play a crucial role. With increasing automation and connectivity becoming the new reality, many of our previously established notions about work may no longer apply.

Automation is now an undeniable part of the business landscape. In the UK, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that 1.5 million people are already at a high risk of having their jobs automated, with the most vulnerable roles held by women and young people. Reported estimates also indicate that in about 60% of existing occupations, at least one-third of tasks can be automated. Furthermore, it is projected that at least 10 million jobs globally could be displaced as a result of automation by 2030. This is because new technologies have demonstrated a capacity to efficiently fulfil menial and repetitive tasks once reserved for workers.

Yet, despite the grim predictions, the UK government’s Made Smarter Review found that the adoption of digital technologies could potentially add more than £450bn to UK manufacturing over the next decade, with a gain of 175,000 jobs across different sectors. For example, technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) are now being used in businesses across the UK to make processes more efficient and create new, better-paid jobs: Online supermarket Ocado uses AI to develop a robot that can recognise 50,000 of its products and work out how to grab it with its suction arm. Airbus uses VR to improve the quality, efficiency, and speed of their aircraft assembly lines.

Even entire factories have been changed by technology, with IoT News reporting that the UK has launched its first 5G smart factory. New 5G telecommunications, combined with the Internet of Things (IoT) technology-outfitted sensors, are being used for preventative maintenance. How this works is that the increased connectivity they offer can transmit data much faster between machines, helping predict failures before they occur. IoT is changing the world, connecting everyday objects and revolutionizing every sector. Because these connected technologies will require faster and more accessible networks, Verizon Connect describes how 5G is set to fast track the IoT, taking development and business adoption to the next level. 5G is seen as the backbone of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where emerging innovations like AI, AR, and an array of technological advancements that are still in their infancy, can be brought in to mass adoption, changing the way we work.
Thus, young professionals should note that although Forbes’ enumeration of vital skills for the future also explains how technical skills will also be crucial, so are several uniquely human skills. These range from the ability to think creatively to having the capacity for leadership and even having enough emotional intelligence to better connect with another person. Even if technology is capable of doing more and more things, these skills demonstrate that there are more than a few areas where humans are irreplaceable.

Alongside the development of disruptive business technologies, just as important is the capacity to learn and embrace change. A person with a growth mindset understands that given the fast-paced environment surrounding them, they must see change not as a burden, but rather an opportunity to grow and innovate. In short, the future of work lies in investing in the human potential, which is the main goal of our organisation in launching the InspirEngage ‘Human Investor’ programmes. By supporting companies, educational institutions, and individuals in developing and sharpening skills related to emotional intelligence, communication, and complex problem solving, we can empower this and the next generation of workers with skills that AI can’t ever replace.

In conclusion, the future of work is rapid, ongoing and one that young professionals shouldn’t fear but rather embrace. Resilience, healthy mindset and strong social skills are at the heart of ensuring we fill the gaps being created through the arrival of the fourth industrial revolution.

If you’re interested in our training and speaking programmes connected to this, email


Specially written for

By Y. Walters

January 2020