Knowledge and Skills for the New World of Work

In our previous week’s article on what it takes to be an entrepreneur, we left off with the question of the importance of having the knowledge and skills to implement best work practices in the new world of work. So, what is the new world of work?

Probably the best place to start is with the Industrial Revolutions. We have reached the 4th Industrial Revolution (IR), which is defined by cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things, and systems integration. Some are suggesting that artificial intelligence lays the basis for the 5th IR. It is noteworthy that the periods between the 1st IR (steam power) in 1784, the 2nd IR (electricity and mass production) in 1870, and the 3rd IR (computers and automation) in 1969 were roughly 100 years apart. The gap between the 3rd and 4th IR is, however, less than 50 years, and we can expect that the gaps will continue to decrease between revolutions.

Our future will, of course, be increasingly defined by technology – there are nearly 7 billion smartphones in the world, and there is a veritable tsunami of information with 90% of the world’s data having been created in the last two years. And every two years, the volume of data across the world doubles in size. We can add to this the explosion in cognitive computing, robotics, and artificial intelligence. In addition, we can expect even more work from home, constant changes in careers, and the continuous redefinition of jobs.

Oxford University economists Dr. Carl Frey and Michel Osborne (1) predict that 40% of roles across the globe will be lost to automation by 2050, and while nobody can predict the impact with great precision, there are many studies that suggest that the net loss of jobs will be significantly hastened by the rapid growth and development of artificial intelligence.

There are also very few, if any, jobs that will remain unaffected by technology – be they teachers, accountants, architects, lawyers, doctors, stockbrokers, writers, artists, or nurses. Many of these jobs have already transformed – doctors, for example, are using big data and AI for research and diagnoses, as well as robotics for surgery and procedures.

Research by AMR Gartner 2022 (2) indicates that 72% of global executives believe that reskilling is critical to the future, but only 17% of these executives indicate that their employees are sufficiently reskilled to assume new roles. This points to the challenge that many educational institutions are simply not producing candidates who have the necessary knowledge and skills to take up roles in the new world of work.

A great deal of work at the level of the World Economic Forum and other global agencies has gone into establishing the type of generic knowledge and skills that will be important for students of today when they are undertaking their studies. One such model developed from research by Binkley et al., “Defining 21st Century Skills” (3), is shown below:

Knowledge and Skills for the New World of Work

This and similar models emphasize the points that:

  • Learners of tomorrow need to be able to think for themselves and approach problems in novel ways to achieve modern solutions. Flexible, critical, and creative thinking will be key to finding these new solutions (Ways of Thinking).
  • Learners need to understand technology, especially artificial intelligence, how it works, and how it can be made to work for them in their careers (Tools for Working).
  • Being able to communicate clearly and work with others in multiple settings across many continents will increasingly become the norm (Ways of Working).
  • Becoming an international citizen will require that learners have high emotional and social intelligence and an ability to listen deeply and suspend judgment before reaching well-informed data-driven decisions (Ways of Living in the World).

Questions that students of today should be asking themselves about their choice of educational institutions for disciplines like Business Studies might, therefore, include:

  • Does the institution reflect a profound understanding of the new world of work?
  • Do my lecturers have sound, recent experience in the business world?
  • Will I get the necessary personal care and support to make the right choices and be effective in my studies?
  • Am I confident that the knowledge and skills which I learn will stand me in good stead for this rapidly changing world?

Geoff Schreiner
Head of Business Studies,
Cornerstone Institute,

08 November 2023

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  1. Frey, C. B., & Osborne, M. A. (2013). The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?
  2. AMR Gartner (2022). Reskilling the Workforce
  3. Binkley, M. et al. (2012). Defining Twenty-First Century Skills. In: Griffin, P., McGaw, B., Care, E. (eds) Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills. Springer, Dordrecht.
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