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The current boom of exponential technologies of today is causing strong disruption in the talent availability landscape, with traditional, more mechanical roles being wiped out and paving way for huge demand for learning and design thinking based skills and professions. The World Economic Forum said in 2016 that 60% of children entering school today will work in jobs that do not yet exist.

While there is a risk to jobs due to these trends, the good news is that a huge number of new jobs are getting created as well in areas like AI, Machine Learning, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Blockchain, Cybersecurity, etc. It is clearly a time of career pivot for IT professionals to make sure they are where the growth is.

AI and Machine Learning upending the traditional IT Skill Requirement

AI and Machine Learning will create a new demand for skills to guide its growth and development. These emerging areas of expertise will likely be technical or knowledge-intensive fields. In the near term, the competition for workers in these areas may change how companies focus their talent strategies.

At a time when the demand for data scientists and engineers will grow 39% by 2020, employers are seeking out leaders who can effectively work with technologists to ask the right questions and apply the insight to solve business problems. The business schools are, hence, launching more programs to equip graduates with the skills they need to succeed. Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, for example, last week launched a nine-month program which provides recent college graduates with advanced data management, analytical and communication skills. 

According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, only 5-10% of labor would be displaced by intelligent automation, and new job creation will offset losses.

The future will increase the value of workers with a strong learning ability and strength in human interaction. On the other hand, today’s highly paid, experienced, and skilled knowledge workers may be at risk of losing their jobs to automation.

Many occupations that might appear to require experience and judgment — such as commodity traders — are being outdone by increasingly sophisticated machine-learning programs capable of quickly teasing subtle patterns out of large volumes of data. If your job involves distracting a patient while delivering an injection, guessing whether a crying baby wants a bottle or a diaper change, or expressing sympathy to calm an irate customer, you needn’t worry that a robot will take your job, at least for the foreseeable future.

Ironically, the best qualities for tomorrow’s worker may be the strengths usually associated with children. Learning has been at the centre of the new revival of AI. But the best learners in the universe, by far, are still human children. At first, it was thought that the quintessential preoccupations of the officially smart few, like playing chess or proving theorems — the corridas of nerd machismo — would prove to be hardest for computers. In fact, they turn out to be easy. Things every dummy can do like recognizing objects or picking them up are much harder. And it turns out to be much easier to simulate the reasoning of a highly trained adult expert than to mimic the ordinary learning of every baby. The emphasis on learning is a key change from previous decades and rounds of automation.

According to Pew Research, 47% of all employment opportunities will be occupied by machines within the next two decades.

What types of skills will be needed to fuel the development of AI over the next several years? These prospects include:

In addition to its effect on traditional knowledge workers and skilled positions, AI may influence another aspect of the workplace: gender diversity. Men hold 97 percent of the 2.5 million U.S. construction and carpentry jobs. These male workers stand more than a 70 percent chance of being replaced by robotic workers. By contrast, women hold 93 percent of the registered nurse positions. Their risk of obsolescence is vanishingly small: .009 percent.

RPA disrupting the traditional computing jobs significantly

RPA is not true AI. RPA uses traditional computing technology to drive its decisions and responses, but it does this on a scale large and fast enough to roughly mimic the human perspective. AI, on the other hand, applies machine and deep learning capabilities to go beyond massive computing to understand, learn, and advance its competency without human direction or intervention — a truly intelligent capability. RPA is delivering more near-term impact, but the future may be shaped by more advanced applications of true AI.

In 2016, a KPMG study estimated that 100 million global knowledge workers could be affected by robotic process automation by 2025.

The first reaction would be that in the back office and the middle office, all those roles which are currently handling repetitive tasks would become redundant. 47% of all American job functions could be automated within 20 years, according to the Oxford Martin School on Economics in a 2013 report.

Indeed, India’s IT services industry is set to lose 6.4 lakh low-skilled positions to automation by 2021, according to U.S.-based HfS Research. It said this was mainly because there were a large number of non-customer facing roles at the low-skill level in countries like India, with a significant amount of “back office” processing and IT support work likely to be automated and consolidated across a smaller number of workers.

Automation threatens 69% of the jobs in India, while it’s 77% in China, according to a World Bank research.

Job displacement would be the eventual outcome however, there would be several other situations and dimensions which need to be factored. Effective automation with the help of AI should create new roles and new opportunities hitherto not experienced. Those who currently possess traditional programming skills have to rapidly acquire new capabilities in machine learning, develop understanding of RPA and its integration with multiple systems. Unlike traditional IT applications, planning and implementation could be done in small patches in shorter span of time and therefore software developers have to reorient themselves.

For those entering into the workforce for the first time, there would be a demand for talent with traditional programming skills along with the skills for developing RPA frameworks or for customising the frameworks. For those entering the workforce for being part of the business process outsourcing functions, it would be important to develop capability in data interpretation and analysis as increasingly more recruitment at the entry level would be for such skills and not just for their communication or transaction handling skills.

Blockchain – A blue ocean of a New kind of Financial Industry Skillset

A technology as revolutionary as blockchain will undoubtedly have a major impact on the financial services landscape. Many herald blockchain for its potential to demystify the complex financial services industry, while also reducing costs, improving transparency to reduce the regulatory burden on the industry. But despite its potential role as a precursor to extend financial services to the unbanked, many fear that its effect on the industry may have more cons than pros.

30–60% of jobs could be rendered redundant by the simple fact that people are able to share data securely with a common record, using Blockchain

Industries including payments, banking, security and more will all feel the impact of the growing adoption of this technology. Jobs potentially in jeopardy include those involving tasks such as processing and reconciling transactions and verifying documentation. Profit centers that leverage financial inefficiencies will be stressed. Companies will lose their value proposition and a loss of sustainable jobs will follow. The introduction of blockchain to the finance industry is similar to the effect of robotics in manufacturing: change in the way we do things, leading to fewer jobs, is inevitable.

Nevertheless, the nature of such jobs is likely to evolve.  While Blockchain creates an immutable record that is resistant to tampering, fraud may still occur at any stage in the process but will be captured in the record and there easily detected. This is where we can predict new job opportunities. There could be a whole class of professions around encryption and identity protection.

So far, the number of jobs created by the industry appears to exceed the number of available professionals qualified to fill them, but some aren’t satisfied this trend will continue. Still, the study of the potential impact of blockchain tech on jobs has been largely qualitative to date. Aite Group released a report that found the largest employers in the blockchain industry each employ about 100 people.

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