Technology Is Creating a Skills Gap — How Can We Prepare Ourselves?

The only thing that we can know for certain about the future is that it will look different from today.

When it comes to the workforce of the future, we know that the skills people need to perform their job will be different. In 2018, the World Economic Forum predicted that 43 percent of core skills required for existing jobs would change by 2022. In total, one billion jobs will be completely transformed by technology within the next decade.[1]

Increased development of AI and machine learning means that even some of the most skilled professions in STEM will change dramatically. For example, it’s possible that AI is already as good as medical professionals at recognizing and diagnosing illnesses.[2]

Technology advancing and rendering specific skills obsolete is not a new phenomenon. For example, one can look as far back as the 1440s, when scribes were toiling away the hours copying manuscripts by hand in dark scriptoriums. It required years of learning and practice to master the art, but Gutenberg’s printing machine made all their skills useless. So, what can we do today to combat the growing skills gap as technology marches onward with little to no regard for workers?

It starts with arming workers with skills that will always be relevant so they can stay ahead of the technological curve.

Identify the Skills That Will Always Be Relevant

Walter Vandervelde, the author of When the Box is the Limit, breaks down the types of skills workers develop into two categories: knowledge skills and growth skills.[3]

Knowledge skills are work and industry-specific skills. For example, on a manufacturing floor, workers will need a high level of knowledge on how to operate specific equipment. However, as technology and the manufacturing process change, the knowledge skills that workers have developed will need to evolve.

Growth skills, according to Vandervelde, are behavioral skills that are not industry-specific. He defines them as Work and Industry Neutral Growth (WING) skills and explains that these types of skills are less sensitive to the changing world. The five basic WING skills that will always be relevant in a changing world are:

  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking
  • Self-management
  • Social intelligence
  • Attention management

The World Economic Forum has a similar view, predicting the top 10 skills of 2025 will be related to problem-solving, self-management, working with people, and technology use and development.[4] Employers have already recognized that these skills have enduring value and will help workers adapt to the changing work landscape as technology advances.

Staying Ahead of the Technological Curve

STEM jobs in high demand are in fields like data analysis, software development, and AI and machine learning, among others.[5] While these types of positions are highly technical and require a lot of industry-specific knowledge, companies will often cite soft skills like creativity, leadership, and critical thinking as essential for success.

These skills encourage life-long learning. Employers already know that technology will continue to advance, automating certain tasks and eliminating the need for others, and they want to hire workers who will be able to adapt, learn, and provide value even after the skills required for their jobs have changed.

There is still a STEM talent shortage, and the growing skills gap will make it more challenging to fill open positions. However, if employers focus on finding talent with highly developed skills, like critical thinking and self-management, they’ll find themselves with a workforce well equipped to adapt to the evolving skillsets needed in the future.

Having the right talent is critical for STEM organizations looking to stay ahead of the competition. AllSTEM has the experience to help you find skilled science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) candidates to support your organizational goals. To find out more, visit AllSTEM at https://www.allstemconnections.com.


[1] http://reports.weforum.org/future-of-jobs-2018/key-findings/?doing_wp_cron=1623183198.0774970054626464843750

[2] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326460#AI-on-a-par-with-healthcare-professionals

[3] https://youtu.be/GKDvSYDbyYY

[4] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/10/top-10-work-skills-of-tomorrow-how-long-it-takes-to-learn-them/

[5] http://reports.weforum.org/future-of-jobs-2018/key-findings/?doing_wp_cron=1623183198.0774970054626464843750