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It’s down to you to bridge the digital skills gap

By Mike McDonagh, Managing Director of Hays Ireland

A recent Gartner report claims that in two years, 70 per cent of organisations will have integrated Artificial Intelligence (AI) to assist their employees’ productivity. Of course, whether it is customer service chatbots or sales and marketing forecasting and predictive analytics, AI is already ‘here’ for many businesses.

However, as promising as these new technologies are, the speed at which they are being implemented by organisations is not necessarily being matched by how quickly employees are learning the skills needed to work with them. As a result, we are seeing digital skills shortages which only look set to worsen.

So how should leaders be responding to these digital skills shortages? Is it just down to organisations to bridge the skills gap?

1. Review and modernise your training and development programmes

Our CEO Alistair Cox recently wrote a blog on the subject of how learning at work needs to change, and highlighted some of the ways in which pioneering businesses are providing flexible and bespoke training to employees. He suggested that training needs to evolve quickly to keep up with the pace of digital change - and replace the infrequent, traditional training programmes which are commonplace today. Employers expecting their workforce to keep up-to-date with the latest technology trends should take this into account when planning their training programmes.

The key to effectively tackling the growing skills deficit isn’t just the responsibility of employers however.

2. Academic intuitions must prepare students for the digital world of work

Further education is thought to be the starting point for anyone wanting to improve their long-term career prospects, but are universities, apprenticeships or vocational studies moving forward fast enough to equip professionals with the skills they need?

To make certain that they are, we need to improve collaboration and communication between business groups and academic institutions to create a better way of learning, one which adequately prepares people for the careers they will have in the future, rather than those consigned to the past.

As well as this, we need to take a leaf out of the books of Singapore, the US, and several European countries, and focus on teaching technical skills early. Some of this has already begun, with many Irish schools having already incorporated coding into their curriculum. These are the kinds of initiatives we need to help young people develop an understanding of advanced technology - and spark a passion for what it could do in the future. However, coding in itself isn’t a panacea, it could even be argued that coding will be a task more taken on by AI in the future. Agility, flexible thinking, creativity and problem solving (with or without technology) are all skills that will help students adapt to the changing world of work.

3. The only person who can drive your learning – is you

Of course, we could have the best educational systems and workplace training in the world, but ultimately, it’s down to each of us individually to maintain a passion for learning. You owe it to yourself, at any stage of your career, to keep yourself up-to-date with the latest technological advancements affecting your industry and find out how to keep your skills relevant.

This is not as hard as it may seem, you may already have what you need to get started, try reaching out to the technical experts within your organisation and to share their knowledge – you’ll find they can explain the jargon for you and bring you into the fold. Follow some experts on social media too, as this will help ensure you keep up to speed with changes taking place in real-time. There is also a wealth of free online webinars, podcasts and blogs out there to help aid your understanding, all it takes is a quick search.

Making sure we have the skills to thrive in a digital world of work is something we should all be working on, not just looking for businesses or educational institutions to show us the way. Take the time to understand the advances in technology happening today, and you’ll be sure to thrive in tomorrow’s workplace.

For more information or to discuss your employment needs, please contact your local consultant.

About this author

Mike joined Hays in 2002 and lead the Accountancy & Finance, Construction & Property, Office Support, HR, Procurement, Executive and Multilingual teams before becoming the Managing Director of Hays Ireland.

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