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Dubai: It is a universally known fact that nothing in this world lasts forever. Everything changes and evolves over a period of time — and this includes the workplace and the skills demanded therein. With the world going through a rapid and fundamental transformation, experts believe that we are now standing at the brink of the fourth Industrial Revolution. This is an era which will combine digital, physical and biological systems in a way that has never been seen before.

Technology, digitisation and automation are replacing many human tasks and jobs at an alarming rate, resulting in organisations looking for skills in potential employees that very different from traditional ones. Not surprisingly, a report by the World Economic Forum states that by 2020, we will lose around five million jobs to automation.

A majority of the employers across the world anticipate that the greatest challenge will be a need to retrain employees for current roles or train them for entirely new roles in the next 10 years. In fact, a comprehensive Employer Research Report by Pearson suggests that 52 per cent of employers in the UAE feel the need to significantly invest in training and re-skilling employees for new roles.

Özhan Toktas, managing director at Pearson Middle East, provides a quick overview of some of the skills that employees will need in order to continue staying competitive and relevant in an ever-changing market.

Soft skills

Soft skills, emotional capabilities and intellectual competencies such as complex problem solving, creativity, empathy, or communication have become extremely significant. Employers across the globe have started to realise that while all these skills might not be on the radar now, they will be in the future. Instead of looking for traditional degrees, they are now shifting towards the employees who demonstrate real-world applications and are equipped with the right kind of skills that are aligned with their job roles.

Mental elasticity and complex problem-solving

Mental elasticity is crucial in an ever-changing world. It may be defined as the ability to stretch beyond core strengths when necessary and quickly rebound back to core skills and discipline as needed. When combined with logic and analysis, it can enable complex problem solving, a skill which allows one look at a problem from different vantage points, develop alternative solutions, and select the best solution given their understanding of the problem.

Critical thinking

This is the ability to think clearly and rationally. As a skill, it has been around for years, evolving with the way it is applied. It requires the use of one’s ability to reason and relies upon being an active learner rather than a passive recipient of information. A critical thinker will rigorously question ideas and assumptions rather than accepting them as is.


Creativity is not limited to just artists. As a skill, it could equally apply to a scientist or software engineer or a mathematician. With automation playing a bigger role than before, any job which can be improved by the use of a machine is being automated. The ones who will stay relevant are the ones who are capable of being creative and coming up with ideas and strategies which robots cannot. As an example, data analytics businesses don’t want just analysts who can crunch numbers, they want workers who can come up with creative or unique strategies based on these numbers.

Collaboration and teamwork

The increase in global competition is driving the need for more productivity at work, and one of the ways by which this is achieved is through teamwork and collaboration. In the future, we will see increased levels of teamwork enabled by technology. Not surprisingly, in 2019-20, according to Computer World, the market for collaboration software is set to grow 9 per cent to more than $45 billion globally.

Judgement and decision-making

This is an area which will grow spurred on by man and machine collaboration. Machines will process information and provide numbers, but a human will analyse this to make informed decisions which can have broader implications. As technology takes away more menial and mundane tasks, it will leave humans to do more higher-level decision-making.


This is one skill which continues to stay relevant through the ages. In the future, leaders will have to adapt to the new realities of the Industry 4.0 in order to succeed.

They will have to be flexible to accommodate the shifting demands of workers, work spaces, and tools.

In the future, jobs which require ‘human’ skills will continue to remain firmly in people’s hands. Luckily, the education sector has been evolving as well, and today upskilling can be done in new ways and forms such as blended education and other mixed programmes aimed at making learning flexible, portable, and possible while working full-time.

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