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The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Employability

You may have heard of ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’.

Following on the heels of the First Industrial Revolution (water and steam), the Second Industrial Revolution (electricity), the Third Industrial Revolution (automation, the internet and mass production), the Fourth Industrial Revolution is about the disruption of cyber-physical systems.

It’s been setting off serious discussions at the highest policymaking levels, including at the World Economic Forum, as well as the business schools and sociology departments of universities, irrespective of borders.

International panels of sociology experts, academics, researchers, business executives, bankers, financiers and politicians have analysed the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s significance, with buzzwords including “artificial intelligence”, “driverless cars”, “brain enhancements” “robotics”, “internet of things”, “3D printing” and “gene editing”.

While these sound impressive – and they are – there’s another word that keeps coming up, too.

And that’s ‘employability’.

To keep up with the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s relentless technological changes, not to mention the disruption to the ways we do business…

New school and university graduates, young professionals (and their managers) are having to embrace a mind-set of constant learning just to be able to stay viable in the 21st-century workplace.

And the skills that make a young person employable in this fast-evolving, uncertain time, are continuing to diverge from what students are taught by traditional curricula in the classroom or lecture hall.

In fact, the World Economic Forum suggests that 65% of children entering primary school today will end up working in jobs that do not exist yet.

So what are the new aptitudes that will be needed for the brave new world we are all having to navigate?

According to the World Economic Forum, the top 10 skills that will be necessary for new graduates and young professionals to demonstrate, and for company managers and Human Resource officers to cultivate and target over the next few years, are:

  • Complex Problem Solving
  • Critical Thinking
  • Creativity
  • People management
  • Coordinating with Others
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Judgement and Decision Making
  • Service Orientation
  • Negotiation
  • Cognitive Flexibility

(And if you want more details on each of these, I have a free infographic you can download here).

In other words, mastering evolving ‘soft skills’ is more vital than ever, and a focus on the purely technical side of aptitudes is not nearly enough to equip the generations entering or collaborating in the workplace.

Or, as the futurist and philosopher Alvin Toffler has put it: “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”.

Of course, technology and the tsunami of online learning opportunities over recent years have made ongoing education more accessible and available than ever before.

Digital literacy has unleashed a new democracy in growing and continually adding to our knowledge base.

Nevertheless, mastering vital human-to-human interactions is still the domain of a dedicated, hands-on mentor.

And, from where I’m standing, such a role may just turn out to be timeless.

To learn more about my one-on-one coaching and tailored workshops for youth, young professionals and corporate teams, please check out the FEARLESS, LIMITLESS and EVOLUTION tracks of my website.