Future Skills for Future Work

There is an increasing understanding among students, educators, and industry that the employment landscape of tomorrow is going to change dramatically. In the coming years, the existing jobs will require new knowledge and skill sets, some new jobs will emerge, and some occupations are likely to go completely obsolete. 

Depending on the economic and social factors at play, certain job categories would experience more growth than others. The youth will need ‘future skills’ and new approaches for this ever-evolving world of work. 

Read on for career insights from Payal RajpalDirector of Robotex India and Founder of Hack the Crisis – India. 

What are ‘Future Skills’, anyway?

Future Skills are those competencies that allow individuals to solve complex problems in highly emergent contexts. They facilitate action in a self-organised way, enabling them to act with insight and foresight. Based on resources that are cognitive, motivational, volitional, and social, future skills are value-based, and are capable of being acquired through a learning process.

The NASSCOM FutureSkills portal is designed as a resource for the IT-ITeS industry to enable discovery, continuous learning and deep skilling in a defined set of emerging technologies, such as:

  1. Artificial Intelligence
  2. Big Data Analytics
  3. Blockchain
  4. Cloud Computing
  5. Robotic Process Automation
  6. Virtual Reality
  7. Internet of Things
  8. Cybersecurity
  9. Mobile Tech
  10. 3D Printing 

To put ourselves on the technology global map, we need to first acknowledge that merely bringing children into schools is not equivalent to quality learning. Bringing Artificial (AI) Intelligence and Machine Learning (ML) education via the medium of Robotics is an excellent way to integrate technology into classrooms and increase the effectiveness of the teaching-learning process.

Robots encourage problem-solving, creative thinking, inculcating a healthy sense of competition that drives innovation among students. They stimulate students to build their own engineering intuition and emphasise meaningful learning through the application of their acquired knowledge.

“STEAM Education is a learning approach that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics as access points for developing holistic potential of students in K-12 classrooms. 

Industry integration in the K-12 education

Involvement of the corporate sector and industries early on incubated in the lessons displaying how AI, ML, Robotics are used in the industries at all stages. Students will find it easier to connect the dots should they be exposed to industry implementations of the subjects they learn. All sectors such as manufacturing, technology, banking, finance, food sector use heavy elements of emerging tech in their daily operations. 

In this shape-shifting, pandemic-struck world, students would need both versatility and flexibility. Considering the future, the most crucial skills that educational institutes should help build, which industries-corporates will look for are the 3Cs of Creativity, Communication, and Collaboration. Working collaboratively in teams across demographic lines will help strengthen the academia industry integration, which is a long-term futuristic win-win.

For example, Robotex India runs workshop series by bringing Robotics education to Government schools in Urban and Rural areas. The Robotex “Workshop Series” and “Robotex Championship” provide a STEAM-minded approach and connect talented youth to scientists, researchers, and other practitioners to offer an essential bridge to future innovation. 

Our workshops integrate K-12 STEAM via Artificial Intelligence, Coding, and Robotics. These are further embedded into projects at the end of the workshops, making students ready to participate in various robotics championships. Our vision is to provide schools a platform into the foreseeable ‘future skills’, our championships are already synergising industry and academia, converting ideas to prototypes and bringing entrepreneurial mindset in the early stages of education. Even during the Corona crisis, our online programs educated over 12,000 students in future skills.

Knowing the basics of AI and coding

AI is a Cognitive Science that has historically been derived from disciplines such as Science, Mathematics, Computing, Sociology, Philosophy, and others. Hence, it makes sense for any education system to bring AI-readiness, so as to maximise learning across disciplines.

AI is being widely recognised to be the fuel for the global digital economy, also gaining geo-strategic importance with several countries striving hard to stay ahead with their youth policy initiatives. If we look at the Indian AI Strategy, we see a clear identification of tech as an opportunity and solution-provider for inclusive economic growth and social development. To make this happen, we need to move from knowledge-intensive to skills-based education.

Additionally, AI and Coding will be the basics of many inventions and day-to-day tasks. A focus on such future skills would ensure that graduates can get employed in the global job market. As the world undergoes the ‘double disruption’ of COVID-19 and automation, those economies would have the opportunity to build back best. 

A good starting point for students will be to read more about the basics, seek out hands-on learning, join introductory workshops, and pursue independent and group projects.

Solving the most urgent challenges

In the past half a decade, we have witnessed remarkable innovations from the young talent pool starting age 6 to 21 at the Robotex Olympiads. The physical championships in various categories with over 10,000 students participating nationally reinforce qualities like time management, self-awareness, confidence, and self-reliance. 

In 2019, a grade 8 student developed an e-cycle product, wherein the electric charge enabled the cycle to run 120 kms, and thereafter, one could paddle. This product was a winner at the national, Asia, and European championship with improvements after every championship. Now, the e-cycle is being further developed with Mahindra and Mahindra. 

In our Line Following Competition, students are trained to design and build Line Follower Robots i.e. robots that move/stop depending on the source of light and sensors. These line follower Robots can help projects pertaining to Agriculture, Defence, and among other sectors. Young participants also have the freedom to create their prototypes and showcase these working prototypes in Robotex Regional, National, and International Championships.

STEM plus soft skills 

The Future of Jobs 2020 report by WEF states that soft skills like analytical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, resilience, and communication will be key besides a good grasp of STEM subjects. 

Some of the in-demand job roles include: 

  • Data Analysts and Scientist
  • AI and Machine Learning Specialist
  • Software and Systems Engineer
  • Robotics Engineer
  • E-Governance and Blockchain Expert
  • Climate Change Engineer
  • FinTech Professional
  • Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineer

The need for cybersecurity

With greater technological advancement come increased risks and challenges related to cyber attacks and data security. In the digital age, hackers and cyberterrorists can exploit individuals, government institutions, and even large companies. Since cybersecurity professionals are required in almost every field where people’s transactions, assets, and personal records need to be protected, diverse organisations are willing to pay lucrative salaries for cyber analysts and other related positions. Cybersecurity degrees are also becoming more popular than ever. 

Some top foreign countries to pursue study options in this field are Estonia, Canada, United Kingdom, Malaysia, China, France, and Sweden.
From a career perspective, cybersecurity is not your average 9 to 6 job. And there is no straight way to a cybersecurity career. Most people get there either straight out of college (way easier if you have pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science) or by transitioning from another IT role. Other important aspects are curiosity and inquisitiveness.

The way ahead for technical education  

The age-old Rs of Literacy  — Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic — are now  joined by a fourth dimension, Rethink. Artificial Intelligence permeates the length and breadth of the world we live in. It is, therefore, essential that students of today should study this domain to be able to expand this knowledge in their own interest and in the interest of humanity. Teachers would also serve as focal points for students to develop this viewpoint.

While technical knowledge is a requirement, creative problem solving remains one of the most sought-after skills within the job market. The talent strategy for the youth must be crafted on the basis of Life Skills + Technical Skills = Future Workforce.

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