How to stay employable in the era of automation

July 20, 2017
3 min read

There’s never been a better time to be a worker with special skills or the right education, because these people can use technology to create and capture value. However, there’s never been a worse time to be a worker with only ‘ordinary’ skills and abilities to offer, because computers, robots, and other digital technologies are  acquiring these skills and abilities at an extraordinary rate. -- Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee

While we may be nowhere close to the fourth industrial revolution in this part of the world, technology is already redefining the way we live and work. Today virtual assistants such as  Apple's Siri and Google Assistant are replacing personal assistants and with advancement in Artificial Intelligence, many jobs have been automated and more will follow suit. The World economic forum predicts a net loss of over 5 million jobs in fifteen major developed and emerging economies by 2020.

However, automation is not a recent trend; technological changes have always displaced humans from their jobs, yet they almost always give room for new jobs that require new skills. In the 1960's Dorothy Vaughan (whose story was told in the book and film, "Hidden figures"), one of the human computers who worked at NASA taught herself and her team to program electronic computers in FORTRAN when she realised the threat it posed to her job. Today roles such as Digital marketing, SEO experts and cyber security experts, once unheard of now exist because of technological changes.

While the debate about whether automation will take jobs or create new jobs rages on, one thing is clear; humans must learn to adapt to the changing world. " Continuous learning" is the only sure way for individuals to move with the changing tide.

Perhaps the greatest challenge to humans in this era is that technology is evolving more rapidly, leaving many people behind. Today, schools with the duty of educating the masses cannot keep up with the pace of technology. The result is a deficiency of in- demand skills needed to cope in today's world. According to this Mckinsey report, about half of all the activities people are paid to do in the world’s workforce could potentially be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies.


It has become necessary to align our education system to current employability needs; young people must be prepared for the future. However, while we await this move it is also pertinent for individuals to stay abreast with developing technological changes and embrace other channels of learning to kill the widening gap between the skilled and unskilled.

Automation has been implicated in causing the class divide in the society widening the inequality in the world. According to Hawking, "The internet and the platforms that it makes possible allow very small groups of individuals to make enormous profits while employing very few people. This is inevitable, it is progress, but it is also socially destructive."

Getting the right mix of skills is essential for survival in the automation age. This Deloitte research shows that asides academic knowledge and technical skills that students should acquire from schools, future workers must build essential cognitive, social process and problem-solving skills that they can apply when required to be more employable.

Hence, everyone must able to acquire new skills to help them stay relevant. The internet is a good place to start. Take advantage of the numerous online learning platforms such as Cousera and Udemy. You should also look out for other offline learning opportunities, including the recently launched CcHub graduate programme.

Do all you can to stay abreast of technological advancement so that you don't become obsolete in years to come.

Writer. Interested in EdTech and tech careers
Writer. Interested in EdTech and tech careers
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Writer. Interested in EdTech and tech careers

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