Professional Development Answers the Technology Challenge

Now more than ever professional development is a major concern for employers and employees. According to the World Economic Forum there are companies and manufacturers in a broad range of industries that are leading the way in adopting AI and new technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Those leaders are reaping the greatest benefits of technology, according to the report.

Adopting new technologies represents both an opportunity and a challenge for businesses and their employees. Businesses will need employees who can work with new technology. Employees will need to seek professional development to have skills that complement advanced technology.

The World Economic Forum report Beacons of Technology and Innovation in Manufacturing 2019 calls the businesses who are leading the way in the adopting technology “lighthouses.” Just as lighthouses point the way for vessels on the water, these businesses lead the way as “beacons for the world, exemplifying the type of production approach that can drive the next engine of global economic growth.”

This type of production doesn’t mean technology will replace workers. It means workers need to develop new skills. “Rather than replacing operators with machines, lighthouses are transforming work to make it less repetitive, more interesting, diversified and productive,” says the report.

The need for professional development impacts both employees and employers:
• Workers’ skills become outdated quickly with technological changes. LinkedIn’s 2016 Workplace Learning Report says the average skill has a shelf-life of five years.
• Sixty-four percent of CEO’s thought they needed up to upskill 25 percent of their workforce over the next five years.
• Ninety percent of the occupations and job openings that technology has created require post-secondary education or training.
• A Business Roundtable survey of its members showed that 95 percent of CEOs thought their companies suffered from skill shortages.
• The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 13.7 percent increase in computer and mathematics jobs by 2026.

It is a benefit to both businesses and employees that professional development be a collaborative arrangement. When employers provide educational opportunities, employees have the opportunity to develop new skills and become an integral part of business improvements. Educating employees in all departments across all levels of a company provides the opportunity for many people to develop leadership skills. This means a business has people at all levels who can assume responsibility. Even in terms of numbers of people to fill job openings, business owners can benefit from educating their workforce.
• In August 2018 the employment rate was 3.9 percent, the tightest labor market since the 1990s
• There were more than 6 million job openings in the second quarter of 2018
• There is a steady decrease in labor force participation. It was 66.8 percent in 1996, 62.8 percent in 2016, and projections are that it will fall to 62 percent by 2026.
• Today’s working age population is growing at half the rate it did during the 1900s.

Employees that seek opportunities for professional development will be most successful as the Fourth Industrial Revolution introduces technologies into their jobs. They will be able to adapt as their jobs change, and change is inevitable. The World Economic Forum estimates automation will impact that 30 percent of the activities in 62 percent of occupations today. Workers who take responsibility for their own skills development are the ones that will become the employees with skills required for future work. With professional development they will be the employees that find that technology enhances their work, rather than replaces them.