Future of Work

Stack up and Stand Out from the competition

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The World Economic Forum predicts that the digital revolution will transform the future of work and the workplace: as many as 133 million new jobs will be created, but 75 million jobs are likely to be eliminated. This “job churn” will eventually impact a quarter of all work and will be concentrated in a set newly emerging professional cluster. On top of that, job readiness is an ever-moving target. By 2022, the core skills required to perform most roles will change by more than 40%. That means people will have to learn new skills several times over their careers just to keep up. All this research delivered one message loud and clear: In order to futureproof our companies—and the economy—we must futureproof our people.

The problem isn’t a lack of talent

Closing the global skills gap could add US$11.5 trillion to global GDP by 2028. Education and training systems need to keep pace with the new demands of labor markets that are continually challenged by technological disruption, demographic change, and the evolving nature of work. The businesses are initiating their programs aimed at skilling, upskilling, and reskilling their workforces, but there is a more significant issue which a 4-year college degree requirement creates.

This skill challenge raises two critical questions. First, are companies overvaluing four-year degrees at the expense of tangible skills and real-world experience? And second, in an economy that is facing constant, unyielding disruption, how do we ensure people have the tools they need to thrive in the years to come?

Democratizing the labor market with the New Collar Revolution

Ginni Rometty, former chair, president, and CEO of IBM, coined the term “New Collar” to define a new category of skills-based careers. New Collar jobs are roles in some of the technology industry’s faster-growing fields – from cybersecurity and cloud computing to cognitive business and digital design – that do not always require a traditional degree. What they do expect is the right mix of in-demand skill sets. Companies like IBM are leading the way by focusing on skills instead of college degrees and looking to build new talent pools with the help of pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs.

Stop Trying to Master One Skill. Instead, Build a Skill Set

Scott Adams writes:

“If you think extraordinary talent and a maniacal pursuit of excellence are necessary for success, I say that’s just one approach, and probably the hardest. When it comes to skills, quantity often beats quality.”

The concept of “Talent Stacking” proposed by Scott probably holds more relevance today than at any time. As articulated in this research done by Burning Glass, the digital economy requires 14 Foundational skills with an equal balance of technical, digital, and social skills. Every individual can maximize their opportunities by ensuring a diversity of abilities demonstrated through their experiences. Tim Herrera of New York Times explains, “The idea is that instead of focusing your efforts on becoming singularly great at one specific skill or task, you should strive to get proficient at a few related skills that can be woven together into a wider skill set that does make you singularly good at your profession or some general life ability.” The more skills you have, and the more value you can create, the more rewards you receive. What’s made this concept of talent or abilities stacking even more powerful is the ability to recognize and reward each of them with a verifiable micro-credential. So, not only do you have the ability to showcase a portfolio of proficiencies but also a means to demonstrate how they were acquired.

How Are Stacks Organized?

The most common form of stacking is vertical stacking, not a new concept as most educational systems across the world have some vertical hierarchy of stacking credentials. In the United States, a high school diploma or GED is often the first step towards a trade school, a two-year, or four-year degree program. Some fields such as medicine or athletics lend well to vertical stacking, where gaining in-depth knowledge in a particular subject-area drives excellence.

Horizontal stacking is a newer, more job-focused type of stacking. In horizontal stacking, a student earns skills and credentials across a field or industry and not necessarily in a specific order. This type of stacking is common in the IT field. An excellent example of this would be a combination of Cybersecurity and Cloud, Cloud and Data Science, AI and Programming, etc. etc.

The third type of stacking, called value-added stacking, is where students combine vertical and horizontal stacking that puts specific skill sets together to lead hybrid jobs. Research shows that the highest-paying jobs of the future are complex and multi-disciplinary, often blending left brain (logical, organized) and right mind (creative, artistic). These jobs may include design, user experience, data analysis, and interpretation, as well as business acumen.

Understand your strengths through skill stacking

Take up pursuits that are in line with your passion and interests. Some people prefer stability and want to commit all their efforts to master one skill. Others are human Venn diagrams — building knowledge that spans a significant number of subjects to solve different problems. But besides becoming world-class in one area, success in life and career also comes from having a unique stack of competencies that make you indispensable, invaluable, or unusual. You can utilize those skills to create value in a way no one else can, thus becoming one-of-a-kind in your field.

Skill stacking raises your market value by being good or exceptional — not extraordinary — at more than one ability. “When you gain new knowledge and enhance your skills, you’re provided with many more opportunities and see that more roads are open to you,” argues April Davis of Pick The Brain.

Take time to figure out what skills you have right now and what you can learn in the future to take you in a direction that is right for you and your interests. Everyone can benefit from skill stacking – you don’t need to become the best in the world at one thing to advance your career. What you need is a valuable skillset that can stand the test of time.

Here are some resources to help you develop a diverse skill set:

IBM Skills Gateway

IBM on Coursera

IBM on edX

IBM Badges

Cognitive Class





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