What skills will employers be looking for in the future?

Traditional assessments are outdated and not practical, explains Dilshad Sheikh. Instead universities should be preparing their students for the jobs of the future

It is estimated that by 2025, 50 per cent of all employees will need reskilling. Referred to as ‘double-disruption’ by the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Future of Jobs Report, the vast increase of technology and automation alongside the economic impacts of the pandemic will see many professionals looking to upskill and shift sectors. 
In 2015, the top five skills for employability were: complex problem solving, coordinating with others, people management, critical thinking and negotiation. It was already obvious that the skills that were most in demand were ones that were intrinsically more human. It was also clear that employers were looking more in the now than ahead, with creativity and active listening falling to the bottom of the list, marking them least important. 
Things have since changed and are set to shift even further over the next decade. Over the past year, newly emerging skills fall into self-management, including: active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility. Even though critical thinking and problem solving remain highly desirable and at the top of the list, creativity and digital skills have become more important, shifting up the list of skills employers are looking for.

Creative thinking 

Creativity extends further than thinking outside the box, with the past year being a prime example. Graduates need to know more than appropriately referencing their dissertation. Switching up assessments is a way that can guarantee students are not only waking up the right side of their brain, but also developing relevant abilities. 
Producing and directing a podcast will be more valuable in a marketing role than a 10,000-word essay. Letting go of stagnated, traditional assessments and introducing more applicable and creative ways to measure a student’s capability will be more beneficial for graduates and employers.  

Active learning

Bringing in stress tolerance and resilience, the business leaders of tomorrow need to integrate active learning with creativity to thrive in a constantly evolving market. Higher education institutions are more theory over practice and universities also tend to look at outdated, older case studies to teach students what not to do.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it is also too late for the party. Getting students to devise solutions to problems occurring in the here and now will not only allow their track record to be more relevant and up-to-date with potential employers, but will also prepare them to be responsive and creative while developing their active learning skills. 

Digitally literate

SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) skills are more relevant now than ever before and require employees to be digitally adept. Digital literacy and computational thinking will no doubt shape the jobs of the future, especially as they are already influencing the current job market, so graduates must be prepared to be comfortable with advancing technology. It is up to the educational institutes to prepare them for this. 
Generation Z students have been exposed to tech throughout their lives, but as it advances, we don’t want anyone feeling left behind. Whether it is helping a student to access Microsoft Word, or teaching advanced AI, universities that are proactive and integrating tech throughout their programmes will allow all students to acquire the same digital skills, adequately preparing them for future employment prospects. 
Universities must not assume all students know how to work a computer and realise that just because their students can access an online class, it does not mean they are digitally prepared for their future career.
Industry professionals showcase how creativity, active learning and digital literacy are relevant in the current and future market, so one thing all universities can do to ensure skills of the future are permeating throughout student programmes is by bringing in such professionals. Whether that is partnering with multinational employers or having industry professionals teach modules, the experience and expertise will help shape and prepare students for their future career. 
Dilshad Sheikh is dean of the Faculty of Business at Arden University