Episode 4

Published on:

16th Jun 2022

Skills for the Future

Welcome to episode 4 in our ‘The Future at Work’ podcast! Today we begin looking at a new topic in the theme of work: What skills will you need for the future? Join Ellen Wang and Marc Steward as they discuss how you can improve your CV by enhancing your skills.

For more information, read our blog here!


Ellen: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Future of Work a podcast series. I'm your host Ellen Wang from Leeds University Business School.

Marc: Hello, I’m Marc Steward, Careers Consultant from Leeds University.

Ellen: In this episode, me and Mark will be discussing another new theme, the future of skills, one of the most important conversation amongst students in higher education currently. There's so much anxiety around workforce will be replaced by automation, fears of technological driven unemployment had risen throughout the centuries, usually provoked by disruptions like industrial revolution. But historically, technology creates more jobs than it destroys. Of course, we don't know if it will be different this time, but we do know that automation is only a part of the story. Equally important are other interacting factors like changing demographics, urbanisation, globalisation, social inequality, political uncertainty and climate change, of course, all of which have impacted on the future of skills. So, in this episode we'll discuss some of the concerns to our students and what's the best way to prepare them for the future. So Mark, let me start by asking what are your thoughts on these current trends and how they could impact on future skills please.

Marc: OK, so let's go through some of the trends. So the main one is you was talking about the use of technology, AI and robotics, et cetera. So I’m just going to refer to a statistic here, just to show I’ve done some research Ellen. So, the World Economic Forum shared, and our guest speaker Nicole is hopefully going to talk about this, they had predicted that 97 million new jobs will be created globally due to AI and robotics. And that's over the next few years. Obviously, that will mean that current jobs will change as well, but that's always been the case, and I think this, sort of, people worrying about AI, automation and robotics, et cetera, get scared by that. It has always been the case historically, hasn’t it? So, if you think about when aeroplane was invented and people thought, ‘gosh, how we going to fly, how is it going to stay up? How is it going to effect of a car travel?’ It's always been the case, so I think you know, there has always been anxiety, but these things will happen. Obviously, jobs will be affected. So if we look at AI and technology, I think the main sort of roles that are quite monotonous, will be affected by that. I think you know employees looking for getting rid of some of the roles and maybe some of the monotonous tasks, some of the roles that our students and graduates will go into. And look at upskilling as well, so there will be the need for continual professional development. That's going to be a big thing moving forward, we always going to have to be, sort of, developing. And I think we talked about that last podcast, around sort of you know, companies that don't feel they’re ready in terms of their IT. But again, IT is going to change once you know what programme, that’s going to change again. And I think that's always been the case. So there’s the need for upskilling and CPD, big data will always be demand, that's going to be a massive thing. You know we have had at the minute lots of companies looking at data and marketing and how to target, products, that's always going to be a big thing. You know, I'm a big fan of films and I look at sort of films and check, how much that's going to become a reality, so I don’t know if anyone has seen ‘Minority Report’, that film where he walks past those advertising boards, and those advertising boards react to the person who walks past, and they look at what they bought their phone, right, what they purchased recently. And then the advert is targeted to that. That could work and it’s going to happen. It’s happening already, if you look at, you know your emails. If you see the adverts that are on the page that your emails are, they are targeted to what you must search for. This is happening already. I think we got to know that. We’ve got things like the SG (social governance), which I think we're going to the glamour of social governance issues. I think that's where a lot of companies are looking at the image, they’re looking at how the public perceive them, and I think there is an importance around sustainability, peace, you know, every company now has a sort of page around sort human rights, ambitions and such. That's going to be a big sort of thing in terms of trends. You know other things like monitoring. I mean, I was reading an interesting article about monitoring of employers. Whilst they may be asking their employees to work from home, more hybrid also using monitoring software to see how that's affecting their business. Is it affecting in a positive way, their argument is we need to know this because obviously it's a business and a new way of working. Of course, there are unions and employers thinking this is the start of a big global movement. So, there’s lots of interesting stuff happening, I would say.

Ellen: Great. So let me just go back to automation, are you, are you saying that automation is a force for job creation rather than job destruction? Obviously the report says that 97 more million drops are going to be created over the next few years and that's a huge amount of jobs. But do you think there are going to be some technological driven unemployment also that's going to happen?

Marc: Yeah, I would say that, whilst these jobs will be created absolutely, I mean I always say to students that there will be jobs that don't exist today, exist next week and that’s due to technology and AI. Yeah, other jobs will be affected, and we’ve seen this anyway. I mean, if you look at the high street and things like that during covid, it was effected badly. But pre-covid, it wasn’t anywhere. If you look at some very big, sort of you know, retailers, someone like Woolworths for example, they closed down. It was going to happen. You have to adapt, that’s what all retailers know about. So, you know you got E-commerce, you got the rise of the Amazon, and you know, they're going to, sort of, adapt. But again, if you look, I mean it's like this weekend, you know, I got a flyer from Morrison’s, Morrison’s are now working with Amazon, of course. Because, you know, you got the shops that have to look at how we are going to work, we can’t work, you know, individually, now we're going to have to work with these big players. We got to adjust and adapt so yeah, I mean some jobs will disappear, but jobs disappear anyway. They always have done. And that's just the nature of the beast, and other ones will be created. That’s part of the past. The university, you know, are getting ready for the world of work, understanding what's happening out there as well. So again, I mean it's always been the case that will happen.

Ellen: Okay. Another trend which was talked about few years back and it's, kind of, quietened down a down little bit, and I want I want to bring it back into the conversation is globalisation. Do you think globalisation is linked to any benefit for job creation as well? Especially, you know going forward with old trends and stuff.

Marc: Yes, it’s an interesting one is globalisation. So, obviously we live on a very small planet now, we can travel most places, I mean with covid accepting. Yeah. I think a lot of what we buy and what we buy into, even though we don't necessarily know it, is from other countries. So, you know, this streaming services we watch. The sort of, food we buy comes from other countries, you know it's always been sort of, you know, a ‘global eye’ world. What would say is yes, it gives you access to a lot of opportunity, of innovation, a lot of innovative products definitely. Obviously there’s a lot of political issues here, in terms of, you know if you're a farmer in the UK, and you want to sell your lamb to a shop in the UK or in Europe, but you’re importing it from New Zealand. Is that really a good thing to do and you’ve got sustainability and peace. But the other main issue, of course, is around employment and labour and because of course you know you're not necessarily going to pay people in certain countries, who you’d pay in another country. This is an issue for things like slave labour and sweatshops, et cetera. I mean, that’s again, a big issue. But again, with the sustainability and peace taking off, more companies are being aware of this, I hope that will change, we shall see.

Ellen: I think one of the other thing to consider is that you know, from our student’s perspectives, more from obtaining intercultural competencies, perspective, right. The more you are aware of these things that you mentioned, the better it is for them to secure a job in the globalisation trend.

Marc: Yeah, you get absolutely. I would agree with that. Yeah. I mean, it's interesting. You know, if you look at some of the sort of courses at Leeds, and I teach on International Business in the first year, so that’s aimed at students who want to work globally, or work with big companies. I think sometimes, There’s a sort of, you consider it in terms of ‘I’ll work for global companies, not based in the UK’, and I think you know, it is noticeable that there is a slight change, I think maybe in the last couple of years, students may pick up another language on top of that and look into, you know, working in another country, I’ve certainly seen that. And again, the issue of covid is that, sort of, stopped that, that prevented that. So I’ve certainly had a couple of students in the first year, who have picked up Mandarin for example and want to work in China. Yeah, it's not easy at the minute, because some of the cities like Shanghai are still in lockdown. But it's also not easy because of the visa situation, but I know there's certain cities in China, having visited there, that are really open to people from other countries working. So I would agree yeah, it does open you to other, sort of, opportunities, other cultures, other languages, and companies want that as well. A company will want people from other countries coming in because they obviously understand the culture of the country they want to partner with or work with, so yeah, absolutely.

Ellen: Great. Well, let's look at another trend then, which is slightly on the opposite side to globalisation, I think is a climate change and sustainability, please, again that you mentioned. You know, how this might impact on the future of skills.

it well, I think it was March:

Ellen: That's an interesting observation and analysis Marc. I think I'm just going to follow up on what you said there in terms of, it’s rather a knowledge, than the skill. I have come across a couple of new trends in terms of organisations, below organisations have created these new roles like Chief Sustainability Officer, which is never really existed before. A couple of my contacts have moved into the sustainability field of work and they've recently taken on a new role as Sustainability Manager in a big high street supermarket and organisations and things like that. So when you say that this is more knowledge than skills like that, I just wonder what sort of knowledge or skills do these jobs look for when you apply for these jobs?

Marc: Yes, I suppose it depends on the job, and to be honest, I mean you can have something that’s quite, sort of, generic. So, what you doing there as you're looking at the whole organisation, you're looking at how stable the organisation is. So, can be from supply chain. What that supply chain is made from, does that supply chain adhere to what the company wants in terms of employees, fair trade products, etcetera, to you know the lighting, you know the imaging that they use. They've got very niche job roles. I had to work with a student about two or three years ago with the NSE consultancy and he was working with air quality, his job was looking at air quality within the NHS. I mean, that's a very niche role. That's very niche. Now, that's what I mean by knowledge, I mean, he worked up to that, he did a lot of volunteering, at University as part of his extracurricular, he volunteered, he got a job before that and was working at another company. But that was where he wanted to be. But that's by taking additional courses. You know, that's knowledge. I mean, like I say, the skills that he's using, the skills that, you know, the organisational skills he's got, negotiation, relationship building, communication skills exist anyway in a lot of roles that he had previously. But in terms of some of the more technical aspects that’s around education, that’s around knowledge. So, I think you know it does depend on the road that you have and I certainly know having spoken to some students again, from looking at consultancy, and sustainability at Leeds, you know a lot of the students there may have worked in the sector previously, but what they needed was they needed the additional knowledge from that masters course, to then make sure that they could apply for the role, the next level on the next stage of those roles as well. So they had, sort of, softer skills. It was just they needed that education, the additional learning from the masters course.

Ellen: Really interesting. I mean, you know what you're saying is the future of work is not really about obtaining new skills, but also is about knowledge building as well, right.

Marc: Yeah. Yeah. I’d say there will be skills required, absolutely, especially on the technical side. But I think with the sustainability piece, some of the roles I think it is more around knowledge and education, I think especially when if you're going to impact on business and you're going to impact on the public, I mean that's what it's all about. I mean we have David Attenborough knocking out programmes every week about this. All you see on the television at the minute is David Attenborough, saying ‘we’ve got to act now’. All he is doing there, is educating, I mean it’s not about skills, it’s just making people aware of what’s going on.

Ellen: Yeah, yeah, of course. Well, I guess another trend is a little bit more controversial, is on the aging population, or should I say macroeconomic impact. Do you think ageing population reduces labour force growth? What he views on this?

Marc: Okay. Well, as the oldest person in this room, there is always a place for, I mean, there's legislation put in place prohibiting discriminating against someone because of their age. I think there’s a lot about the fact that people are working longer, again, after work longer for whatever reason. But, people have experience, you know, they are exposed to the world of work. Maybe, if we take our university students, we’ve got career changes. We have a lot of mature students, again doing their masters. They are noticeable by having a lot of, career changes in recent grads as well. I think that’s important, and so you know. Especially at the minute, where, again, we have employers, that are coming to us saying actually got the vacancies that don't have the applications, right. Even again pre-covid and visiting some of the organisations we work very closely with, you know they would have someone there, who was recruited and who was mature student. And that’s very important and I always say, the bottom line is, a business has to exist, it has to make money, you've got, and it doesn’t matter if it’s corporate or a charity, anybody working for a charity will always come and tell you that a charity doesn’t exist if it doesn’t raise any funds. It's incredibly hard time for a charity to respond at the minute, because of covid. But if they have someone who has the experience of raising funds and they are, you know, above the age of 21, that kind of knows by their faces are not going to consider that person. So, I think you know there was there is a place for everybody. And like I said before taking it back to the World Economic Forum, like I said about jobs, there will be jobs available, I think it's. You know, it's just having an awareness of those jobs or what they require. As we said before, there will be new skills. I think it's a confidence thing sometimes and you know just understanding what is required in the job and just understanding yourself, the bottom line and I say again to the students, most of my work once along with any student, of any age, is getting them to understand what they have, the skills they have, and how to articulate it. It’s not that they can’t do something, they can do it, they just have to understand why and how they can do that, how we can articulate skills, the trainings that they’ve got, to the role of they’re applying to. And if we look at, sort of, the ageing population, you know, one of the sort of, analogies that I use, which is a good one, as you know. Sometimes a creature of change, so you know, might say things are changing that I'm worried about this, anxious about it in regards to new technology coming in, and I’m not really... and what I really ay to the students is in my lifetime, you know, to listen to music. I've gone from vinyl, cassettes, to laser disk, to CD, to streaming to iPod shuffles. You know I've had to adjust if I wanted to listen to music. So how can you not adjust if you're applying for a job? You have to. That's the way it works. You know, people adjusted about buying holidays and went from travel agents to booking online and this is people of all age, it’s all about confidence.

Ellen: Sure, I guess just to add to what you said already it's the ability to articulate across skills as well, right so, how do you articulate that? And I think sometimes our graduates probably tend to slot themselves into a specific position and they forget there are a lot of skills that you can transfer so that it is ability to be able to articulate your transferable skills from one position to another. And like you said, you know, there are 97 million more jobs to be created over the next few years, and there are also jobs out there that without the application there that you mentioned. So, I guess, it’s not only knowing yourself, but also knowing what skills are transferable so that you can actually perform rather than just thinking, ‘oh, maybe these are the only jobs that I can apply for’, without thinking about the wider concept and the bigger picture maybe.

Marc: Absolutely correct, yes. This is why about 70% of graduate jobs are open to any application, it isn’t necessarily about the qualification, some of them are, but it isn’t necessarily about the qualification. What the employer is looking at someone who, in their terms, would be well-rounded. I think as well during covid, we talk about pivoting which is where you may not get your plan A, you might get your plan b. But that’s always been the case and a lot of people do not live a linear life. They have got to their position by moving X, Y to Z. There’s lots of very successful people who what done that and have said, ‘I am now a very successful business person working in e-commerce but I started working out in Sport Coaching or teaching or whatever. It’s not necessarily a straight path. It could be something like… I know it’s a podcast but I’m drawing something on the table… a loop the loop.

Ellen: That's fine, I can see Marc. I know what you saying. Yes, okay. So out of all these trends that which works out, then you know some of them are more current and immediate some are perhaps down the line or few years down the line. Which one do you think is the one that our students really need to be, not concerned about, but you know more, thought about?

Marc: I think there are two things, the first trend is not really a current trend, it’s been around forever, and that's basically keeping an eye out on what's going on out there. Keeping an eye on, whatever news channel you look at. I mean you’ve got to be careful because, obviously I appreciate the social media comes in to play a little bit here, you know, a lot of people who comment on social media are not informed to do so. Sure. And you have to be careful of following people like that.

You know, you do need to know what's happening. There is a lot written about what's happening, great stuff from the World Economic Forum, as I say I don’t want to tread on the toes of Nicole, but the WF has some great reports. The Big Four, McKinsey, Boston as well. You know, they do a lot of reporting around sectors and then will be looking at that. That's the first thing because otherwise you don't know what's happening, so you have to look at that. And then those reports to start talking about trends that are really important about the main one is obviously the technology side. And you know, lots of employers will say, ‘it will be quite good if you did enhance some of your digital worth’ if you like. Whether that is improving under Excel because you’d be using that. Or coding, if you’re going into a role with coding that could be beneficial as well. So I think that you know that would help.

Ellen: Okay great. So my last question is what, what do you think is the best way for our students to prepare for the future and obtaining new skills? This is a big question.

Marc: I think just backing up on what we just said, and I say this in my teaching and workshops, you’ve got to keep an eye on what’s going on out there. If you know what’s happening, then you can address any sort of things you need to develop whilst you’re at University. That would be the first thing. Again, course-wise, we have LinkedIn learning, we pay for LinkedIn learning, which means that students of the university can access LinkedIn learning courses for free. So as well as the course that you’re on, you can be doing these courses too. Some students will say, well I’m doing a degree, isn’t that enough? I’m not saying you should have to do this, as a careers consultant, it’s not my job to tell anyone, it’s to advise, but again, talking to a lot of employers, they do like something in addition to the course you are taking. So you know, if it was a LinkedIn course, or maybe even something outside or something in the community. I do think you’ve got to keep an eye on things, I mean, things are changing so quickly. I mean, it's massive. I mean, I'm not joking. A job that might exist today might not exist tomorrow. You’ve got to keep an eye on this, it’s going to, sort of, affect what you look for in the future. It’s not about freaking out, it’s not about getting anxious. But if you’ve got an hour or half an hour a day just to get a feel for what’s happening. And as well you can address any gaps in skills or knowledge, and you can develop through that as well. Also do turn up to employ events, they are both within the university but also external. So, last week was the Leeds digital festival, and in fact I engaged with another couple of events as well. A lot of employers are keen to talk because of that as well, so yeah, networking. People are going to do some talks, these include people who are doing some intriguing stuff, amazing start-ups, really interesting digital work as well. So, you know, to engage with employers as well because they look at the talent, they look as people who are interested.

Ellen: And these events, are face to face now?

Marc: Leeds Digital was hybrid, so some events were face to face in terms of what we running. It's a mix, I think mainly at the minute still really remote, because we have a lot employs want to engage, so we've got spring fair next week, which is an event for May, I’m not sure if this will go out before then. I mean, it’s 102 employers, we just cannot have that face-to-face. So that will be remote, but we are looking to get back face-to-face. But we do have start up employers who are doing face-to-face work as well.

Ellen: Okay. Well, thank you, Mark. I think that's a there's a lot of takeaway points from this short episode. So from why I gather, you repeated once, you know many many times again that to keep current affair awareness I think that's really important. Whatever that's happening out there, make sure that you are aware what's going on, but also use trusted sources because there are just loads of information out there. So, I think that kind of takes a little bit of analytical and shrewd judgement by our graduates themselves, right, to know what sort of source to trust and what not. And I guess the other thing is, it is about you mentioned earlier, the future skills is not only just about obtaining skills, it is also about knowledge building enhancement itself as well. The combination of two will make you ahead of the game, so to speak, and then last two things that mention is a utilising, I guess University of Leeds Resources. So LinkedIn learning is something I don't know if everyone is aware of, but we encourage students to do over and over again. So use LinkedIn learning as a source of learning, obtaining additional knowledge, skills and et cetera, and then attending events that you know, Marc is hosting or involved in. I think that connexion or networking with employers is always beneficial. Do you think I have captured everything that you shared with us?

Marc: I would say so, but I will mention the events, so I would say that. If you look at My Career, if you engage in My Career that’s where the events are advertised, that’s not just the careers service but also faculty specific events are on there. Yeah.

Ellen: So there's plenty opportunity and plenty of resources and plenty of information available for graduates out there. So I think that's great, Marc. I think we've covered some really interesting ground today discussing some of the trends, and how they're going to impact the future of work, and the future of skills rather. For the next episode, as you mentioned, we're looking forward to inviting industry expert and practitioner whose done tones of work around talent development and organisational design. She's called Nicole Luk, who's also our LUBS alumna, and she's very passionate about her work on the future of skills. So, please stay tuned for the next episode. As always, if you're interested in finding out more about this episode, please subscribe to our podcast series. You're also welcome to get in touch with us by either sending us an e-mail or book online employment via the careers Centre with Marc, our contact details are available in episode description. Lastly, I shall leave you with quote by Robert Greene. The future belongs to those who learn more skills, and combine them in creative ways. Until next time, take care.

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About the Podcast

The Future of Work
Welcome to the Leeds University Business School podcast exploring the Future of
Work hosted by Faculty International Manager, Ellen Wang, and Careers Consultant,
Marc Steward! In this exciting podcast, we will explore various key themes
surrounding the working environment, inviting business school alumni, academics,
and industry experts. Over the course of 10 episodes, we will discover how AI
impacts recruitment, hybrid working, and the skills you need for the future. You will
gain industry insights and learn some of the tips and tricks our guest speakers have
to offer as well as learning about opportunities available to you at Leeds University
Business School and the University of Leeds!

For more information, read our blog post here!