Preparing for the future of work: employees ready to learn new skills or retrain

The nature of work is changing, thanks to the continuing march of technology, automation and artificial intelligence (AI), as well as shifting demographics and the rise of the ‘gig’ economy.

All these factors mean that we are living through a fundamental transformation in the way we work, and employees need to be ready. But the good news is that many are facing up to the challenges that lie ahead.

A new report from professional services firm PwC, Workforce of the future: the competing forces shaping 2030, found that almost three quarters (74%) of the 10,000 people surveyed in the UK, Germany, China, India and the US are ready to learn a new skill or completely retrain to keep themselves employable. What’s more, they consider it their personal responsibility, and not their employer’s, to keep their skills updated.

The survey suggests a shift to continuous learning while earning, so that employees can keep up with technology’s impact on jobs and the workplace.

Overall, the majority of respondents believe technology will improve their job prospects (65%) – although workers in the US (73%) and India (88%) are more confident than those in the UK (40%) and Germany (48%).

Most are confident that technology will not completely take over the working world: nearly three quarters believe technology will never replace the human mind (73%) and the majority (86%) say human skills will always be in demand.

However, there is still concern that automation could shrink the workforce. Of all those surveyed, 37% believe automation is putting their job at risk, up from 33% in 2014. Furthermore, over half (56%) think that governments should take action needed to protect jobs from automation.

Commenting on the findings, Jon Williams, Partner and Joint Global Leader for People and Organisation at PwC, said: “Anxiety kills confidence and the willingness to innovate. With a third of workers worried about the future of their jobs due to automation, employers need to be having mature conversations now, to include workers in the technology debate. This will help them to understand, prepare and potentially upskill for any impact technology may have on their job in the future. The shift is nothing less than a fundamental transformation in the way we work, and organisations must not underestimate the change ahead.”

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