Workers of the future will need skills different than today


Chuck Robbins ciscoChuck Robbins, the CEO of Cisco.Mike Blake/Reuters

  • This post is part of Business Insider’s ongoing series on Better Capitalism.
  • Chuck Robbins, the CEO and chairman of Cisco, says the impact of automation on jobs looms large.
  • Tomorrow’s workers will need different skills, and it’s up to today’s leaders to make sure they’re trained.

Rapid technological advancements have changed the world in an incredibly short amount of time.

In the past few years, we have seen technology that has been developed and applied in astonishing ways, opening up new opportunities, creating new markets, and driving economic growth.

But we have also witnessed the real impact technology can have.

Innovations such as artificial intelligence and automation have rendered some jobs unnecessary, and are changing the requirements for what skills are needed to get certain jobs done.

In many cases, jobs once managed by people can now be done by machines, whether physical labor such as operating machinery or office tasks like data collection and processing.

The impact looms large: Cisco and Oxford Economics recently collaborated to examine how technological change will affect the future of work in the US, and our research has revealed that about 4.3 million workers will be displaced by 2027, with an additional 2.2 million workers disrupted, resulting in a total of 6.5 million job moves.

Additionally, according to the World Economic Forum’s report on workforce re-skilling, one in four adults reported a mismatch between the skills they had and the skills they needed for their job. At the same time, a whole range of new roles will emerge in industries such as healthcare, technology, and media, and new skills will be required to meet the requirements of those jobs as well.

It is clear that we must address this challenge to ensure the continued strength of economies around the world. Companies, industries, and governments must commit to building skilled workforces to ensure that the transition through this shift doesn’t leave our greatest asset — our people — behind.

I particularly believe that it is especially incumbent upon business leaders to take a stand — without the talent needed to drive our companies forward, no one company will be successful. We must look at how we can work across the technology industry, and across every industry, to unite our collective strengths in addressing this issue. Successful collaboration just requires the will, and the commitment, to see it through.

Several of us have taken the first step. At this year’s World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, 11 companies have joined efforts to help train workers of the future.

The founding partners for this initiative are Accenture, CA Technologies, Cisco, Cognizant, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Infosys, Pegasystems, PwC, Salesforce, SAP, and Tata Consultancy Services.

As a group, we are opening up key elements of our individual training libraries into one centralized portal called SkillSET, where users will have free access to the most up-to-date self-paced training materials, ranging from general business skills to deep focus on cybersecurity, big data, or Internet of Things.

The portal will offer tailored content, developed by PwC, to help users determine which coursework and learning pathways best fit their skill set and learning goals. Our goal is to affect 1 million people over the next few years.

By pooling our training and education resources and funding job re-skilling for workers displaced by technology and automation, we are committed to making sure that workers can access new pathways to career success.

New technology provides us with an incredible opportunity. Making connections — bringing people, and things, online securely — yields endless possibilities. But while technology has incredible capability to be applied to do amazing things, it is people who come first, and this matters more than ever.

In my view, no one person, or company, can devise all solutions alone. Our fractured world may seem fragile, but it is possible to create solutions to the issues that vex us locally and globally. It just requires us — particularly those of us who lead companies around the world — to roll up our sleeves and work together.

By building this initiative, 11 global companies are doing just that, and I am excited to see the impact we can make.

Chuck Robbins is the CEO and chairman of Cisco.

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