People have been able to successfully transition from one career to another in the wake of past technological disruptions, albeit with some assistance along the way. The question remains, however, what skills might serve people best as they navigate the ever-evolving landscape of the future job market.
Research from the Oxford Internet Institute and the Center for Social Data Science at the University of Copenhagen provides a degree of insight, as it found that workers with skills in artificial intelligence (AI) are in high demand and earn 21% more on average, with the potential to earn up to 40% more.
“We know we never apply skills in isolation,” the researchers explain. “Using this data, we saw which proficiencies were most sought after and which sets were in demand together. This allowed us to give skills and complementary skills a financial value based on the demands of the labor market.”
The study found that the value of AI skills is greatly enhanced because they can be combined with other valuable skills. This ability to work well with other competencies is what makes AI skills particularly valuable.
The rise of new technologies, especially AI, has had a big impact on the value of skills. Among AI skills that are in demand, the top five that increase a worker’s wages the most as a percentage are:
- Machine Learning (+40%)
- Tensor Flow (+38%)
- Deep Learning (+27%)
- Natural Language Processing (+19%)
- Data Science (+17%)
The results indicate that skills gain more value when they can be effectively combined with other skills. For instance, skills like data analytics are highly valuable because they can be seamlessly integrated with other high-value skills. In contrast, skills such as photo retouching have limited versatility and can only be combined with a specific set of skills, resulting in a lower overall value.
“Conceptualizing the relationship between skills as a network enabled us to show the context dependency of human capital,” the researchers conclude. “Our findings have profound implications for individuals, businesses, and policymakers. By recognizing the value of complementarity, we can better guide workers on their individual reskilling journeys in times of technological change.”
So, while training can be effective in helping people to adapt to technological disruption, and the Oxford research highlights specific forms of training that can prove valuable, it remains crucial that people maintain the belief that training can be effective. This is something that isn’t always present, especially when doomsday predictions suggest that vast swathes of the labor market promise to be automated away.
A sense of control
This was ably demonstrated by research from the University of Basel, which found that our aspirations are crucial to our success, whether in terms of our education or our careers. We can perhaps think of it as a form of Pygmalion Effect, whereby our beliefs manifest themselves into reality.
This general optimism about the future is often lacking in those being displaced, however. Indeed, research into deprived communities across the UK found that pessimism about the future was pervasive, which fed into little real hope about the future or one’s individual prospects.
This matters, as while it seems as though people “can” adequately bounce back from technological disruption, they have to believe that they can. Various studies have highlighted the key role self-efficacy plays in any change process, and it represents one of the key aspects of our psychological capital.
Sadly, the hype surrounding new technologies often makes it hard to accurately judge whether our jobs are at risk or not. For instance, research from Brigham Young University found that we tend to think our jobs are at far greater risk than they actually are.
Surprisingly, only 14% of the workers surveyed had actually seen a robot replace a human worker in their jobs. But when those who had experienced this kind of automation themselves were asked, they tended to think the risk to all jobs was three times greater than it actually was.
In other words, while only a small percentage had been directly affected by automation, they believed that almost half of all workers had lost their jobs to machines. This belief contrasted with the more modest 29% estimated by the larger group.
“Overall, our perceptions of robots taking over is greatly exaggerated,” the researchers explain. “Those who hadn’t lost jobs overestimated by about double, and those who had lost jobs overestimated by about three times.”
As we grapple with the impact of new technologies on jobs, a balanced perspective is essential. While research underscores the value of AI skills and their synergy with other competencies, the importance of self-efficacy and optimism cannot be overstated. Belief in one's capacity to adapt is a linchpin in facing technological disruptions.
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