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Digital skills setting the pace for the Future of Work

In early 2018, a study conducted by the University of Stellenbosch business school estimated that 35% of all jobs in South Africa at the time, approximately 5.7 million jobs, were at risk of being lost to digital automation by 2025.

Over the course of the last year, we have seen a marked rise in different forms of clerical work, such as work performed by secretaries and admin assistants, being replaced by increasingly powerful virtual assistants through the use of productivity tools and artificial intelligence. But the idea that this trend is limited to clerical and administrative work alone is mistaken. 

A recent quarterly labour force survey conducted by Stats SA found that of the record increases in unemployment observed between Q1 and Q2 of 2021, the biggest job losses were observed in the formal sector.

Disruptions to the ways in which we are able to work and live during this time have resulted in many professions and businesses having to adapt to increasingly more digital and platform-based approaches to work. Professional work such as diagnostic work performed by radiologists is already being done more accurately by machines and algorithms. Simple legal work is more efficiently done by algorithms and solutions such as IBM Watson. Much of the basic actuarial and accounting work that boils down to the application of algorithms more and more lend itself to automation, with greater speed and accuracy. 

This does not mean that these professions will disappear - but they will be transformed. Certain cognitive and creative skills like communication, design and judgment skills will remain stubbornly hard to automate, and probably may not be in our lifetime. They will however need to be combined with other skills to make for an effective professional. It’s at this intersection - the best of man and machine - that the future of work will be created. 

It has been estimated that by 2030, 75% of jobs will require employees to have advanced digital skills with the most ideal candidates also possessing knowledge in areas like Augmented reality whilst also having a well-rounded education with a focus on the application of knowledge, creativity and critical thinking. The development of a blended skillset may prevent certain roles from becoming redundant but will in turn make for more effective professionals who can create more value in a variety of professional settings. How you begin to prepare now for this eventuality will define your career's ultimate growth and future. 

Following current global trends in the professional sphere, these are the top 10 tech skills you’ll likely need to learn to grow your career and be effective in the digital economy:

  1. Theoretical Computer Science
  2. Programming Principles
  3. C++
  4. C Programming
  5. JavaScript
  6. Mathematics
  7. Data Structure
  8. Web Development
  9. Design and Product
  10. Graphic Design 

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