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preview 2017

The skills you need to stay ahead of the workplace robot

There are two things that you’ll need to know to make sure you’re more useful than robots – for at least another year.

THE TYPEWRITER, THE telephone, the car, the internet.

With every new innovation we create, the more irrelevant we seem to become to the workplace.

And yet the answer to this is almost always ‘people have been saying that machines will take our jobs for centuries, and it still hasn’t come true’.

What they should say is that it hasn’t happened yet.

That excuse can only take us so far – and the revolution we’re experiencing this time isn’t just taking away physical tasks for us – it’s replacing our minds a little too.

But there is a way around it, and if you want to make sure you’re up to date for the workforce in the new year, there are two things you should look at knowing.

shutterstock_424584364 Shutterstock / Shutterstock / /

Privacy and security

Some of you may have sat the European Computer Drive Learning (ECDL) programme, which was set up by the Irish Computers Society 20 years ago.

This year is the first year that they’ve had to update the programme from the couple of programmes it had 5 or 10 years ago to a much more varied course where you can pick and choose what elements of computing you want (or need) to know.

Of all of these programmes, Tom O’Sullivan, CEO of the Irish Computers Society says that privacy and security learnings will be most important for the New Year.

“This is a feature of the modern workforce,” he says. “Many people own a work phone, are accessing work information from home. The consequences of that are major, and businesses are hyper aware of the risk of a privacy breach.”

“At least one board meeting a year if not more is concerned about cyber security risk, and the reason for this is the vast majority of privacy breaches are caused by the inadvertent access of users. That, plus more and more people are accessing their systems.”

So knowing how to protect your information, as well as your company’s, could have huge benefits not only in your current role, but for those who are job-hunting as well.


Trayc Keevan is Global Director Foreign Direct Investment at recruitment agency Morgan McKinley.

She says that demand for digital project managers in particular has grown, as more businesses are looking to transfer their operations online.

The biggest gap we are seeing exists in the mid to senior level experience level candidate who have the traditional marketing expertise but digital skills are relatively new to them. Whereas younger digital natives have the digital skills but they struggle with the analysis and reporting writing required for key digital positions.

The demand for digital experience with Google Adwords, or searchword terms in particular has grown, and is an area according to Keevan where “demand outstrips supply”.

Also in light of Brexit, more financial services companies in the UK are expanding their operations here to passport services across the EU and they are requiring a blend of technical financial and digital skills.

She says that the list for the digital skills a worker is expected to have isn’t necessarily getting longer, but people are looking for better experience with core technologies.

“For example, in the past if you were a developer with Javascript, HTML and CSS, clients would allow for a semi equal split between all three, but now they are putting more emphasis on better Javascript than HTML and CSS.

Also the evolution and pace of advancement in technologies means that continuous learning and on the job learning is a key consideration here. It is easy to become irrelevant very quickly in this space.

“Meet-ups are growing in popularity in this space as talent is continually benchmarking what they know and what technologies they are using with what’s new and emerging.”

IT professionals 

There is a huge gap between the number of jobs being advertised, and the skills needed to fill those roles.

But even the tech professionals have had to learn new skills because of the emphasis on digital – but into communications.

“The IT section was seen as a separate part of the company,” says o’Sullivan. “Now it’s at the heart of how things are done, and as a consequence, they had to brush up a bit on their negotiating and communications skills.”

Future outlook

And what about jobs in general? Will these minor skills only help us in the short term, and are our jobs going to be steadily replaced by the technology we produce?

It is assumed that the latest technology advancement will cut jobs:automated cars will replace taxi and truck drivers, ipads and robots in restaurants will take over waitresses and barmen, and droids will deliver packages and food.

Even the task of writing could be proven obsolete by the advancement of robots.

But not all of them – maybe not even a huge number. It’s more likely that these robots, droids, machines and smart technology will be used to help people in their roles, rather than replace them.

In more good news, humans are still number one when it comes to work centred around creativity, entrepreneurship, interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence.

So jobs like doctors, nurses, carers, personal trainers, educators, entertainers, policy makers, and artists will most likely survive in a more automated world.

So no need to panic – just yet.

Read: When should you be told you’re at risk of a cyber attack?

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