Reduce, Reuse Re-skill?

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is coming!”

That’s a mouthful, but it’s true–the new revolution is here, and it builds on its predecessor by expanding digital technologies and blurring the lines of reality. According to Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, in an article published two years ago, the Fourth revolution is categorized separately from the Third revolution based on three important factors: velocity, scope and systems impact.

He said, “The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management and governance.”

We’re all used to living in a digitized world–how will this revolution impact us more than the previous three?

According to a recent report from the World Economic Forum and Boston Consulting Group, the latest revolution will bring about major job disruption. In the United States, based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2016–2026 National Industry-Occupation Employment Matrix, from now until 2026, approximately 1.4 million jobs may be displaced by technology.

In the report, Towards a Reskilling Revolution: A Future of Jobs for All, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Burning Glass Technologies and the Occupational Information Network are utilized to help find a solution to this impending job crisis: re-skilling. First, however, researchers had to determine whether re-skilling and job transitions were viable and desirable.

To determine viability, researchers created similarity scores (ranked low to high), which pitted job requirements of one job against a “target job” to determine overall likeness and ease of transition. Job-requirement comparisons included: work activities, knowledge, skills (cross-function and specialized), abilities, education and work and job family experience.

Other conditions that helped determine viability and desirability included:

  • Are “huge leaps” needed in both education and experience to transition?
  • Is the “target job” expected to decline in number in the coming years (desirability factor)?
  • Will the job transition allow a worker to maintain or increase both wages and standard of living (desirability factors)?

It’s predicted that workers in production and office/administration industries will experience the greatest disruption with 1.15 million expected job losses, or 80 percent of the current workforce in these roles. Using the data from this report, viable job transitions/re-skilling could reduce this to approximately 7 percent (3 percent for office and administration workers and 4 percent for production workers).

These findings put the onus on business leaders, stakeholders and policy makers to not only rethink how they hire, recruit and retain employees, but how they can implement re-skilling to prepare themselves for the workforce demands of the future.

“The only limiting factor on a world of opportunities for people is the willingness of leaders to make investments in re-skilling that will bridge workers onto new jobs,” Schwab said. “This report shows that this investment has very high returns for businesses as well as economies–and ensures that workers find a purpose in their lives.”

Danielle Westermann King
Danielle Westermann King is a former staff writer for HRE.