The economic promise of digital technologies is being put at risk by inadequate education and corporate training systems, and unless radically new learning approaches are adopted, the failure to close the skills gap could result in 14 of the G20 economies forgoing as much as $11.5 trillion in GDP growth promised by investment in intelligent technologies over the next ten years.
That’s according to a new report from Accenture, published in collaboration with the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance (G20 YEA).
The report says that on average, across the 14 economies covered, 51% of worker time is subject to potential augmentation as intelligent technologies enhance people’s capabilities. Thirty-eight percent could potentially be automated, but the impact varies between job roles and geographic markets, pointing to the need for targeted interventions to accelerate opportunities and manage risk.
In the US, for example, workers in empathy and support-related roles, such as nurses, represent the largest single share of employment and have the greatest opportunities to boost productivity through augmentation. Sixty-four percent of their work time could be augmented, and 14% of augmentation could take place in the next ten years. Appropriate investments in skill building could fulfil demand for as much as 1.4 million additional workers in these roles over the coming decade.
“Whether new technologies augment or automate work, upskilling is an urgent priority,” says Eva-Sage Gavin, senior managing director at Accenture and global head of its Talent and Organization practice. “But before business leaders commit to improved workplace training, they must assess how technology will reconfigure work in their sector and the new range of skills it will demand of their people.”
The rising importance of new skillsets
Complex reasoning, creativity, socio-emotional intelligence and sensory perception are the skills that are rising in importance across almost every single work role, according to the report. The importance is set to increase further with the adoption of intelligent technologies.
“Current learning approaches aren’t fit for today, let alone tomorrow. Evidence from neuroscience and behavioral sciences show us there are better ways to learn,” says Armen Ovanessoff, principal director at Accenture Research. “Many of the most important skills for the future workplace are best acquired through practice and hands-on experience. We need an overhaul of skilling approaches that puts experiential learning techniques front and center.”
Accenture recommends a three-pronged approach to solving the skills crisis:
- Speed up experiential learning: Deploy a range of techniques, from design thinking in the board room to simulation training tools for more technical roles; from on-the-job training initiatives to apprenticeship schemes. In schools, provide active project-based learning and team-based learning activities. Apply new technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence (AI) to make learning more immersive, engaging and personalized.
- Shift focus from institutions to individuals: Education and training targets should incentivize each individual to develop a broader blend of skills, rather than only producing certain numbers of graduates from specific courses. This blend must include a focus on complex reasoning, creativity and socio-emotional intelligence.
- Empower vulnerable learners: Older workers, the less educated, those in physical manual labor roles, and in smaller businesses are more vulnerable to work dislocation and have less access to training. Targeted intervention is required to guide these learners to appropriate training and career pathways. Courses must be more modular and flexible to adapt around their life commitments. New funding models must encourage lifelong learning, such as grants to support personal training plans.