Education and Employment in the Age of Artificial Intelligence: Essential Soft Skills!

We catch up with Michael Young to discuss the essential skills needed in education and the workplace and beyond!

Many of you will already know that my role over the last few years has been deeply involved in helping data scientists to enhance their skills and become more workplace ready. It is clear to me that many have had tremendously strong technical and sometimes the very best academic skills that mean they are more than suitable for the role concerned, but for some, a little more is needed to ensure they can land that all important role. With my own interest in A.I., and based on the workplace readiness work I have completed, I thought I would take a look at what the soft skills are that will help all workers survive in an A.I. environment.

To the Future and Beyond!

With futurists and financial experts predicting that artificial intelligence could displace a majority of jobs in the coming decades, schools and universities are scrambling to educate the next generation of workers. At the same time students and parents are wondering what comes next, and if the money they are spending on higher education and colleges will be a sound investment or a waste of resources.

My take on this is that with the age of A.I., everything is up for grabs, and a great many things remain uncertain. Even so, the rise of A.I. has been ongoing for some time now, and there are some important lessons educators, employers, parents, and others can learn.

One of the most important takeaways from the current state of the A.I. landscape is that computers excel at things like speech recognition. Those faux humans are so convincing that you may have "talked" to one without even knowing it. Jobs that involve routine and repetitive tasks are likely to be the first on the chopping block, but there is another class of tasks that computers, at least so far, show no signs of mastering.

Computers and artificial intelligence agents are great at impartial decision-making, but they are not so good at empathy. So-called soft skills are beyond even the most sophisticated artificial intelligence, and if you want to secure your future you would do well to focus on these essential abilities.

Critical Thinking

Computers are great at processing which some confuse with thinking, so much so that they are sometimes called thinking machines. But the kind of thinking that a computer, and now an A.I., can do is limited in scope, even if it is nearly endless in raw ability.

Artificial intelligence is far less capable of critical thinking and situational analysis than it is at raw number crunching, and that is good news for humans who hold those skills. The ability to think critically and logically will be even more vital in the age of A.I., and this is one great soft skill to nurture. Working on situational analysis is a key skill for those wishing to progress their careers towards a leadership position.

Creativity

Artificial intelligence has made some inroads in the field of creativity, but computers are unlikely to replace those with creative roles in society. A computer may be able to write a simple poem based on verse structure, or compose a short article reporting sports scores, but few outside the world of science fiction expect an A.I. to write the next great novel.

Creative endeavors such as music, writing, and art are likely to survive the A.I. apocalypse more or less intact, and that is good news for those who long to express themselves and make money doing it. If the A.I. utopia boosters are correct and computing power ends up creating more leisure time and greater levels of wealth, there could be more demand for art, theatrical performances, and other creative endeavors, more good news for the creative class.

Emotional Intelligence

Computers are masters at crunching numbers, but recognising facial expressions and interpreting or even understanding emotions have thus far proved difficult to master. No A.I., no matter how sophisticated, has been able to accurately read emotion, let alone understand the consequences those emotions could engender although there are some interesting use cases that can take a gamble on what they see!

Employees who are skilled at understanding, interpreting, and acting on the emotions of others should prove difficult to replace in the often-touted A.I. job apocalypse (I use this term deliberately and some of you will know about my penchant for Zombie flicks!). Focusing on this essential soft skill could be critical in the years and decades ahead, and the need for these abilities is only expected to grow massively.

Interpersonal Communications

A bot can write a convincing tweet, but you would not invite one out to dinner. Humans are still far better at interpersonal communications, and this essential soft skill will continue to be vital in the years ahead to help remove ambiguity in complex scenarios and otherwise difficult to predict exchanges in communication.

Interpersonal communication can take many forms, from chairing a meeting to persuading a reluctant customer to buy your products. Having strong skills in this area should open up a world of employment possibilities, even as other jobs are shelved by emerging A.I.

Leadership

No matter the state of the A.I. metaverse, there will always be a need for sound leadership, and computers are unlikely to fill that role. The A.I. may be behind the scenes routing phone calls and helping with intelligent automation or even hyper automation, but the leaders of the organisation will still be the ones making the final decisions and this requires experience, skill knowledge and expertise. Much of this will escape the clutches of A.I for many years to come.

Fostering leadership abilities has always been a key goal of higher education, but it's expected to take on a new significance as the trend toward A.I. solutions continue to grow. The good news is great leaders are made, not born, so set your sights on this key soft skill for future success and career progression.

The world of A.I. has been changing fast, with artificial intelligence taking on routine tasks like routing incoming phone calls to the right departments and handling common customer service inquiries. Out on the fringes of the A.I. universe computers are even writing poetry, creating art, and posting news stories, leaving many wondering about the future and worried about their jobs.

While it is true A.I. could have a devastating impact on many segments of society, the impact more broadly could be far more nuanced. If you want to survive the coming job apocalypse (should be safer than the Zombie Apocalypse), you would do well to focus on soft skills, things that so far computers simply cannot do that well or at all.

Want to know more about how MBN can help with workplace readiness? Feel free to drop me a line here and I’d be happy to tell you about our experience of placement programmes and the prospects of upskilling your team.

Author Bio

author

Michael’s the boss. As our CEO he founded the company almost twenty years ago, wanting to revolutionise the way data and technology recruitment was done across the UK. He nailed it (if we say so ourselves) and continues to be a driving force in the UK’s data and tech communities. As MBN pushes out into the world Michael is augmenting his CEO role as an advisor to a number of start-ups, charities and third sector organisations. When he’s not doing that, he raises money for charity through endurance events.