March 14, 2023

Technology is altering the employment landscape around the world. Digital skills are now considered essential in nearly every industry, even those once considered slow or reluctant to change. 

For employers, that’s made it hard to find workers with the right talents, and even harder to predict what skills the workforce of tomorrow will need. According to research by Gartner, 64% of managers don’t think employees will be able to keep pace with future skills needs. Employees feel the same way, with 70% saying they haven’t mastered the digital skills they need today. 

The first week of April 2023 is IEEE Education Week, a weeklong celebration highlighting the educational opportunities provided by IEEE and its many societies, councils and organizational units around the world. To mark the occasion, we talked with two experts about the future of work and the evolving employment landscape.

All Roads Lead to Tech

The path to employment in the tech sector has traditionally passed through universities. Degrees in engineering or science-related fields were the norm. But companies are increasingly open to alternative pathways into the field, cognizant of the broad backgrounds needed to effectively develop new technologies.

“Computer science is today an interdisciplinary field that touches on every aspect of our lives, environment and society,” said Karen Panetta, an IEEE Fellow. “It requires an understanding of standards, ethics, policy, privacy and fairness. We need to learn it all, not just the programming language constructs.”

That need has created new pathways that include certificate programs, part-time programs and concentrated boot camps to help candidates with degrees in the humanities and other fields transition into tech. 

“We have seen people who were dancers and artists transition into AI, imaging and robotics where they apply their creative passions to new technology areas,” Panetta said.  

The Rise of Upskilling

One other facet of the labor market is the mismatch between what employees and potential employees know how to do, and what employers know about them. Imagine, for example, two students take a class with the same name at two different institutions. They may learn wildly different things and acquire different skills as a result of taking the class.

“Lots of people have no mechanism for being seen for the skillsets they have,” said Jennifer Rogers, an IEEE member and executive officer of the IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee. “The questions facing companies are, how do we make people and their skills visible, and what talents do they have that aren’t necessarily related to the degree they have?”

She’s a proponent of what are known as interoperable learner records (ILR), which she likens to a digital wallet that contains lists of credentials – including specific skills and competencies. 

Proponents of ILRs say that they may be able to integrate experiential learning that isn’t captured by the traditional resume – in part by standardizing the definitions of certain skills and competencies. They may even integrate data from digital devices used during work or during training to further document new competencies. 

More importantly, the digital wallets could allow employers to identify employees that could easily learn technical skills.

“An employer might be able to use an AI tool that says ‘based on these particular skills, we believe you have these other skills,” Rogers said. “We have lots of people with experience-based learning that don’t have a way to be seen.” 

Get Involved: According to a recent survey, nearly three out of every four millennial and Gen Z workers are likely to seek new employment opportunities because of a lack of skills development. And 70% of workers feel unprepared for the future or work. IEEE Education Week is filled with training opportunities, online classes and continuing education. It’s a great resource for employers and employees alike.


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