AI threat: Soft skills key to survival in jobs market

By: | Updated: December 4, 2018 1:01 PM

The current education system in India teaches everything but the soft skills that are gravely needed today. The lack of soft skills in the professionals has led to an onrush of AI chatbots, which will potentially take human jobs in the future.

‘Human factor’ key to future jobs in the age of AI, say experts (Representational image)

Growing industry automation and use of artificial intelligence in various fields may have sparked fears of machines taking over jobs, but the future of job sector relies heavily on developing social skills, trust and empathy among workers, experts say. In a panel discussion here organised by Australia’s Macquarie University, industry experts weighed in about the implications for the global workforce with continuous technological disruptions changing the nature of work.

Juliet Bourke of Deloitte Australia highlighted that over time, jobs have shifted from farms to factories, and then to offices. They are now shifting to digital ‘cloud’ thanks to the advent of smart technologies and computing systems like artificial intelligence and blockchain. “Naturally, due to the increasing penetration of technology, there is lot of ‘noise’ about learning technical skills to equip ourselves in the ever-changing work environtment,” she said. However, she stressed that the need of the hour is to invest in developing our social skills, because technology can not replace the ‘human factor’.

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“We don’t spend a lot of time developing our soft skills – in school or at work. Studies have shown that soft skill training can increase productivity,” Bourke said. Skills such as empathy, creativity, team work, negotiation and communication are going to be far more important than in the future, when machines are able to do the work that we spend hours doing today. “Education matters more than ever today. However, university education has not changed much over the last twenty years,” said Leoni Tickle, Associate Dean of Learning and Teaching at Macquarie University. Unlike academic degrees, no formal credentials exist for evaluating soft skills, despite the growth of service sector and the increased requirements for the workforce to excel in communication, negotiations and team work, Tickle pointed out. “Our education system, in fact, goes out of the way to kill our creativity — one of the most important soft skills required at work,” added Gaurav Kanwal, Head of Digital Media GTM and Sales, Adobe Systems. Panelists stressed on the need to adapt to the changing nature of work, to ensure that we do not get left behind in the future.

“We can not stop technology from being developed and disrupting the work space, but we can align ourselves to the ongoing change,” Kanwal said. In the current scenario, where the nature of jobs can change in every ten years, the onus of upskilling workers lies both with the education system as well as the employing industry, said Yvonne Breyer, Programme Director (Design and Experience) of Global MBA, a first-its-kind online degree that will be offered on learning website Coursera. Online degrees and courses offer an opportunity for everyone — from freshers to mid-career professionals — to update their skills on a regular basis, Breyer said.

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