Monday 11 December 2017

Collaboration and love of learning key skills in changing world of work

Tony Donohoe

What will jobs look like in the next decade and what skills will be in greatest demand? The truth is we don't know. Just over 10 years ago, Facebook didn't exist. Ten years earlier, we didn't have the web. The future is highly uncertain, constantly changing and ultimately unknowable.

However, organisations such as the UK Commission for Skills (see panel) outline trends, disruptions and scenarios that provide clues to help us to develop a plausible picture of the future world of work. Interpreting these trends also helps us to define some of the skills and attributes that may be in demand.

We have narrowed down the list to just three: an appetite for continuous learning, individual responsibility and the ability to collaborate.

Continuous learning: technological growth and the accompanying changes in business models make the continuous adaptation of skill sets absolutely fundamental for successful participation in the labour market.


We can also expect more innovations to take place at the borders of disciplines and sectors. Many of the most iconic products and valuable services available today already combine advanced technology with an understanding of human behaviour and aspirations that are developed by study of arts and humanities. The spread of disciplines and jobs across sectors will also stimulate the 'hybridisation' of skills.

Individual responsibility: international competition and technological development is likely to continue to increase the flexibility that employers demand from their employees. As the world of work becomes more flexible, employees are expected to shoulder more responsibility for skills development. Personal agility and resilience, such as the ability to adapt to or embrace change is important.

Ability to collaborate: employers already put a high premium on communications skills and emotional intelligence, and this trend is set to continue. Work in the future will be more interconnected and network-oriented. Employees will require the competencies to work across different disciplines, collaborate virtually, and demonstrate cultural sensitivity.

It is not possible to predict the future. Twenty years ago, there was a widespread belief that the defining feature of the future labour market would be radically reduced working hours and increased leisure time. Fast forward to 2014, and work and leisure hours have become blurred by our increasingly 'mobile' and busy lives.

We do not have definitive answers about what is around the corner but we can try to systematically make sense of the direction of travel in the labour market. By analysing these developments, we can start to position ourselves for the work needs of the future.

Tony Donohoe is Ibec head of education policy.

Irish Independent

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