Are Digital Skills Replacing Traditional Educational Qualifications? This Is What You Need to Know

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The workplace has been undergoing a fundamental shift for years. The very nature of our workplaces has become increasingly dependent on the digital. The onset of the coronavirus pandemic accelerated those changes, sending us forward into a digital era that some were still unprepared to embrace.

Yet even before the pandemic took hold and facilitated the transition into the digital era, technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence were beginning to push us towards new priorities in the workplace. Hiring managers are no longer strictly looking for traditional qualifications such as degrees or certifications.

Instead, for many jobs, a relevant skillset is becoming ever more important. And with a move towards technology and more virtual or hybrid workplaces, digital skills will remain an invaluable asset.

The Digital Transformation

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The move towards digital skills at work is not a new development, but it is one we can no longer ignore. The World Economic Forum noted in a survey early in 2020 that nearly a third of all jobs across the world (almost 1 billion total) would likely undergo changes triggered by new technology during the next ten years.

That shift means that virtually every type of job—from fast-food work to warehouse jobs to white-collar positions—will likely require the use of new types of technology. It also means an influx of brand-new jobs centered in the digital world, mainly focused on ensuring that all the new technology is working for us just the way we want.

Artificial Intelligence as a Revolution

Simply put, the implications of new artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies for nearly every industry are nothing short of revolutionary. The speed and efficiency of AI technology has the potential to improve productivity and cost-effectiveness in the workplace exponentially.

This will free up employees for other tasks and virtually eliminating so-called ‘busy work.’ Not only can AI complete the busy work faster, but it can also complete it more accurately than human workers ever could.

Skills for Tomorrow

In the past, education has been seen as the stepping stone towards gaining employment. Often, people would get a job and stay with the same company for years, slowly moving up the ladder and taking on increased responsibility. However, these people would have very few large shifts in their skill sets.

Today, that is no longer the case. People move from job to job more often than they used to, and complete career changes are not uncommon. That means more people are working in careers for which they don’t have a formal educational background. Instead, they may have some appropriate skills for that field.

Educators today, especially now in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, seem to value skills over academic achievement. Just 62 percent believe that good academic qualifications will help students obtain good employment in the future, according to a survey conducted by Teacher Tapp for the Careers and Enterprise Company. By contrast, nearly 75 percent pointed to skills like public speaking and teamwork in helping to secure a job.

Soft Skills and Digital Skills

So-called ‘soft skills’ are some of the most popular for employers today, and in many cases, they are valued more than academic credentials. These include such interpersonal skills as leadership, creativity, communication, and self-motivation.

In a workplace where many repetitive tasks are being taken over by artificial intelligence tools, the remaining human workers need to have the skills that AIs still lack. These include complex problem-solving, critical thinking skills, and the ability to adapt to change. When companies bring in AI to work on mundane tasks, human workers are freed up to focus on more complex tasks, for which they will need these important soft skills.

In addition to the interpersonal skills necessary to succeed in today’s workforce, workers today must quickly learn how to use new technology effectively. We are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, and it is driven by new technology.

As these tools get implemented across a variety of career fields, workers need to be able to adapt quickly. New jobs are also created by this new digital revolution, including for such positions as IT workers to fix the new technology and digital analysts that can interpret new data gleaned through information-gathering tools.

Build New Skills Today

For those searching for a new career or looking to switch jobs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, building these types of marketable skills will be invaluable. Work to develop your interpersonal skills and digital literacy skills, rather than focusing on building additional academic credentials.

In the future, your academic resume will likely become less of a focus for potential employers. Instead, it may be your unique skill set that could help you land the job of your dreams.