In the early days of the British industrial revolution, a secret society of textile workers formed in Nottingham, gathering in small groups at night. Out of fear of losing their jobs to new industrial machinery, they began breaking into factories and destroying mechanical looms.
Although the political movement was quickly suppressed, the name of this group, the ‘Luddites’, would be immortalised as a term to describe anyone who is resistant to new technology.
In 2020, it’s time to banish your inner Luddite, face your fears of AI and Big Data, and embrace the opportunities of the digital age.
Here are 5 reasons why you should consider upskilling for a digital career.
1. Machines may be coming for your job, but don’t panic… upskill instead
Two hundred years later, we find ourselves in the same position as those textile workers from Nottingham, except that instead of mechanical looms, we’re afraid that robots will take our jobs.
We’re a little bit right to be worried, but it’s not the whole story.
One in three jobs is likely to be severely disrupted or disappear in the next decade, because of technological change. Many of these will be in low-skill areas, but if you think that highly skilled jobs are immune, think again.
Many highly skilled roles, such as journalists, tax consultants, recruiters, marketers, technicians, financial traders and lawyers: involve tasks that can be automated. In fact, AI is already being used to write news articles, and the stock market is now run mainly by computers.
It’s a big change that’s happening in the economy, but it doesn’t mean we’re headed toward a ‘Terminator-style' dystopian future where robots do all the work.
Actually, many companies that are early adopters of AI and new digital technologies have found that they achieve the best, most cost-effective outcomes when humans and AI work side by side.
In fact, AI does not automate jobs; it automates certain skills or tasks within jobs. In the economy of the future, process-oriented skills will be mostly performed by machines. Reasoning skills such as analysis, problem-solving, creativity, conflict resolution, design and social skills, will be left to humans because we’re better at these things. That’s one very good reason to upskill.
2. New digital careers are flexible, high-growth and high pay
When the Luddites were breaking machines, they obviously never could have conceptualised the job of a social media manager. After all, the internet wasn’t going to be invented for another 180 years.
The point is, that new developments in technology always bring with them new jobs, new roles and new tasks that were impossible to imagine previously.
At the end of last year, LinkedIn released their fastest-growing jobs list for 17 countries. Every single job out of the 51 listed was either related either to AI, data, cloud engineering, or online privacy.
None of these jobs existed twenty years ago, and you can bet that any of these jobs is better for your health than spinning cotton in a factory, which brings us to the next point. As technology takes boring, repetitive tasks away from humans, the jobs that remain are potentially more interesting, flexible, and satisfying, while being less taxing on our bodies.
The new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms is predicted to create at least 133 million new roles by 2022, according to the World Economic Forum.
The new digital jobs that are emerging tend to be flexible, highly skilled, well paid, and can be done from home because of cloud computing. By upskilling for the digital economy, you can give yourself a chance to enjoy new ways of working, as well as more engaging work.
3. There is a global shortage of employees with digital skill sets
Instead of breaking the mechanical loom like the Luddites, the smart thing to do is to learn how to operate it. Then, you’re going to be in high demand in the new economy!
At present, there is a significant global shortage of digital skill sets in three-quarters of all workplaces. According to the recent ‘Closing the Digital Skills Gap’ survey of employers, governments and academics worldwide, 75% of global respondents report they already experience a significant digital skills shortage in their organisation.
The global shortage of highly skilled digital workers is soon expected to exceed 38 million required professionals.
In particular, expertise in AI, machine learning, data science, digital business analysis, programming and development, data visualisation, digital marketing, innovation, cloud computing and cyber security will all be in high demand in the immediate future.
The Udemy for Business ‘2020 Workplace Learning Trends Report: The Skills of The Future’ released last year gives us even more insight into specific skill sets that employers are already looking for, within the IT sector. According to this report, the top 10 fastest-growing skill sets in demand in IT in 2020 will be:
- Chef Software (automation software)
- Network security
- Penetration testing
- Linux security
- AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
- Emotional intelligence
- Design thinking
- CompTIA security
- API testing
You can see a more detailed breakdown of in-demand skill sets in the report here.
4. You can get support and free training
Right now, employers are typically very concerned about the digital skills gap in their workforce. In fact, 62% of executives believe they will need to retrain or replace more than a quarter of their workforce between now and 2030, due to automation and digitisation.
Replacement is not the answer, because there are just not enough people with digital skills in the population to fill all those positions. Even in the developed EU, only about 37% of people have basic digital skills, and very few have the high-level skills needed to fill current positions.
Instead, many companies and governments are turning to upskill the workforce to deal with this growing problem. Forward-thinking businesses like Cognizant and AT&T are already upskilling their workers, with amazing results.
The good news for you is that many employers and governments are offering financial support or subsidised courses, for those employees who want to upskill.
It’s likely that your employer will pay for your course, and continue to pay for retraining as technology advances. It makes more financial sense for them to retain you than to find a replacement for you!
If you’re considering upskilling for the digital age, make sure you ask your employer what support they could provide. Plus, do some research on government training incentives in your country.
5. Become a part of the feminist tech revolution
If you identify as female and you’re considering digital upskilling, think about this final point. While ensuring a secure place for yourself in the new economy, you’ll also become a trailblazer on the newest front of the feminist revolution.
In the tech sector, men significantly outnumber women at every level, and particularly in leadership positions. Only 20% of ICT executives are women, and 85% of the machine learning workforce identifies as male.
According to research by the OECD, women are excluded from the digital economy from a young age, due to cultural bias. From access to the internet to ICT training and access to capital, women are consistently at a disadvantage. For example, women-owned start-ups receive 23% less funding and are 30% less likely to have a positive exit compared to male-owned businesses, while women are 75% less likely to pursue a career in ICT than men.
If the future is digital, then women deserve an equal chance to participate in it (and profit from it!)
The answer, according to the OECD, is to improve access to education, develop women’s confidence with new tech, and support women in digital upskilling. There are a bunch of initiatives already stepping into this space. If you want the support of the tech sisterhood to retrain, check out some of the great organisations around, such as Women Who Code.
If you’re female and you’re reading this and thinking, ‘sounds good, but I’m not great at tech stuff,’ stop right there. You’re more than capable of any digital career you want. Remember, women were among the first coders and computer programmers of the 20th century!
Becoming a digital boss lady is another great reason to upskill.