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Top skills you need to avoid being replaced by a machine

A-level results have shown an increase in Stem subjects but tech skills remain a problem, warn some in the industry

Technical skills will become relevant to more people as businesses adopt artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to automate tasks that have traditionally required a human worker.

Just as robots replaced people in automobile manufacturing, experts believe AI has the potential to replace certain jobs in the knowledge economy.

For example, just two months ago, Facebook demonstrated a bot capable of negotiating, which shows that AI is developing at such a pace that machines could soon be taking over roles previously entrusted to humans.

A US Whitehouse paper looking at how AI will affect jobs noted: “Students are much better positioned for jobs that benefit from AI, instead of being replaced by it, if they graduate from high school with the necessary skills.”

As Computer Weekly  has previously reported, AI is set to become a megatrend, with the potential to disrupt traditional business processes.

Experts have warned that AI will inevitably shake up the workforce, with job losses in certain areas where machines replace humans – but it will also create new job opportunities.

Stay ahead of AI

Charles Senabulya, SAS vice-president and country manager for the UK and Ireland, said: “The arrival of artificial intelligence, robotics and smart technologies will help automate previously manual tasks and drive a change in tomorrow’s job roles. British businesses are looking for ways to action insight from captured data now more than ever. Why? To give them a competitive advantage in our digital-first society. And it will be those students with a solid understanding of Stem [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] who will help unlock this edge.”

GE Digital recently conducted some research looking at long trends in technology. It found that 54% of European jobs will be exposed to partial automation or redundancy over the next decade.

Deborah Sherry, general manager of GE Digital, told Computer Weekly: “The impact of technology is at a high level, but we need better and broader Stem skills because nearly half of Europeans lack sufficient digital skills.”

Sherry believes all industries will be affected. She argued that although every industrial revolution has improved living standards, there are disruptions that affect people’s jobs.

“The technology revolution is a good thing,” she said. “Automation is already part of manufacturing, such as the automation of factories. Going forward, there will be automated cars and planes, and software that does the type of analysis people do today.

“There is much to gain, but we have work to do. We need better and broader Stem skills.”

Although the population at large has embraced technology, Europe and the UK need to fast-track education, said Sherry. “It’s not only about coding,” she said. “We also need to get there faster. We need the short-term and long-term planning and this is a global challenge.”

Augmented reality jobs

Beyond AI, augmented reality is one of the areas that IT analyst Gartner has identified in its emerging technology trends research. This promises to disrupt the broadcasting industry and revolutionise high-street shopping.

For example, Ross Brawn, managing director of motorsports at Formula 1, believes that one day, F1 fans will be able to log into video feeds of their favourite driver. It may even be possible to augment an F1 racing game with an overlap of a real, live race, giving players the chance to compete with their heroes.

AI and augmented reality represent long-term trends, according to industry watchers, but the pace of change is such that at least some of the wacky ideas being discussed today will be part of day-to-day life by the time this year’s intake of university students graduate in three to four years’ time.

Cyber skills needed now

Among the short-term issues is a dire lack of cyber skills, according to Kaspersky Lab. Research from the IT security firm revealed that although one in four people (27%) have considered a career in cyber security, with many (47%) regarding it as a good use of their talent, many others admit an inclination to engage in more questionable activity.

Only half (50%) of under-25s would actually join the fight against cyber crime, with a significant number preferring to use their skills for fun (17%), secretive activities (16%) or financial gain (11%).

One of the new courses for people looking at careers in cyber security is the Bletchley Park Qufaro course, which was launched last year. The CyberEPQ (Extended Project Qualification) course, which is equivalent to AS-level, has been completed by 58 students, half of whom were mature students seeking an opportunity to switch career, said Qufaro.

Read more on Artificial intelligence, automation and robotics

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