Maths, computer science, technology and soft skills
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Maths, computer science, technology and soft skills

Maths, computer science, technology and soft skills

Posted on 29th January 2019

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The bad news. Robots are coming for our jobs (again). It’s predicted (by the World Economic Forum no less) that robotics and other technology will take the place of over five million human workers by 2020.

The (slightly) good news. Those same robots et al will create over two million new jobs. 

Assuming this is all correct, and that a global downturn doesn’t make things worse, what does this mean for your job prospects?

Well, the vast majority of those who read our blog are techies of some kind, so it’s fair to assume that they may be those designing and building the robots, algorithms, etc. that transform the world of work.  They may well be in the vanguard of those two million new jobs.   But what about those who are coming into the job market in the next decade?  If you are a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that this is a subject we have written about regularly.  However, it’s not just those coming through the education system we should be concerned about; re-training/re-skilling will also be increasingly important and indeed essential, and not just in tech. 

A study by David Denning, Harvard Associate Professor of Education and Economics, has identified the key skills he believes will be necessary for anyone to thrive in the job market of the future. And because a large part of the economy of the future will be knowledge-based, there are only two, basic key skills’ areas required, and these are mathematical/technological and soft skills.

Now you may say that’s stating the obvious, but it’s also stating the obvious to say that governments don’t always notice the obvious. If they did, we’d have far more of a push to get kids into studying computer science in our schools. Nevertheless, I broadly agree with the Professor Denning. The traditional image of the techie (witness almost every software engineer who appears on BBC2’s “Only Connect”) is of a rather geeky-looking person who is not endowed with what used to be called “inter-personal skills” (now “soft-skills”) of the highest order. I generalise, obviously, but in recruitment it’s invariably the case that where there are two candidates with equivalent technical skills and experience, those human, soft, skills can be the defining element between getting a job or not. 

Consequently, Professor Denning’s conclusion, that it’s necessary for educators to complement their teaching of computer science and other technical and/or mathematical disciplines with soft skills is spot-on.  Be-IT’s research into the graduate IT market did not look at soft skills specifically, but it was clear that some employers do have concerns about the quality and quantity of computer science graduates.   You can’t change people’s personalities, but schools, colleges and universities can do a lot more to train people to develop soft skills.  In the medium-term everyone – candidates, recruiters and employers – will benefit.

Nikola Kelly, MD, Be-IT

Posted in Recruitment News

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