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World Youth Skills Day: tech experts discuss shaping the future workforce through AI, upskilling, and global collaboration

In an increasingly digitised and evermore competitive world of work, equipping young people with skills for employment has never been more crucial, especially with rapid AI and technological development and the threat that it poses to jobs.

On this year’s World Youth Skills Day, we explore what is needed to help shape the future workforce, gathering insights from tech, security & recruitment experts.  As technological advancements reshape industries, “empower the youth for development” isn’t just a slogan; it’s a call to action.

Reshaping the future of work

Highlighting an increasingly globalised world of work, Laura Maffucci, Head of HR, G-P (Globalization Partners),says, “G-P’s 2023 Global Growth Report highlighted that Gen Z-aged employees overwhelmingly responded (85%) that companies that hire from multiple countries offer more opportunities to grow their careers. Global employment gives organisations access to a broader talent pool with skill sets that may not be available in their home market.

“Furthermore, with skill demands varying across different industries and regions, some companies are also shifting towards hiring based on potential. This approach acknowledges that candidates who are smart and motivated can adapt to new skills given the right learning and training opportunities. This can include reskilling in both tech and soft skills. Tech skills typically involve targeted certifications or learning to use new technologies or systems, while soft skills include connective intelligence or the ability to be agile, pivot quickly, and connect the dots between their work and the other work in the organization. Leading with empathy and understanding employees’ skills, strengths, and aspirations allows for better workforce management, talent development, and strategic planning, ultimately creating environments where younger generations can thrive.”

Discussing the significance of technological investment for attracting talent, Lotte Sodemann Sørensen, Vice President of Human Resources, Universal Robots, says, “Investing in technology not only enhances worker development but also boosts a company’s appeal as an employer. This is especially true for younger workers, many of whom need persuading that manufacturing jobs are safe and rich in opportunities for professional development. Offering development programs and career planning, combined with updating technology and machinery, can enrich employee skills. Keeping production updated with new technology and encouraging employees to familiarise themselves with these digitised trends is a great way to remain an attractive workplace.”

Reflecting on the importance of ethical AI use in the future-ready workplace, Pam Maynard, CEO, Avanade adds: “Equipping young people with AI skills prepares them for success in a technology-driven future. However, unequal access, lack of regulation, and potential biases in AI are significant issues that could undermine its benefits. Young people are the tech innovators and policymakers of the future so must be equipped with the knowledge to balance innovation with ethical standards. As we all adapt to a world where working alongside AI is the norm, we have a duty to ensure that young people are well-positioned to ensure AI serves all societal segments fairly, safely and inclusively.”

Addressing the skills gap

Advocating for diverse upskilling pathways amid the advent of generative AI and technologies like ChatGPT, Keiron Shepherd, Solutions Architect, EMEA, F5, says, “Young people need to develop the technical skills required to keep pace with the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) projects a cybersecurity shortage of 1.9 million by 2025. To address this growing gap, it’s essential to recognise diverse upskilling pathways early on, including apprenticeships and industry-recognised certifications. What’s more, engaging with the cybersecurity community through meetups, conferences, and open-source projects can continually enhance skills and expand professional networks.”

David Spillane, Systems Engineering Director, Fortinet highlights the urgent need to address the skills gap in the cybersecurity and IT sectors and diversify recruitment pools: “Thousands of job vacancies remain unfilled because candidates without the ‘right’ skills are turned away. The digital skills gap is widening. Everyone has a part to play in solving this challenge, and leaders must think outside the box when hiring young talent, including diversifying recruitment pools by hiring candidates from non-traditional backgrounds and investing in cybersecurity training and certifications to upskill teams once hired. This will allow businesses to close the skills gap and attract the next generation of talent to ensure young people lacking the technical skills many deem vital for these sectors aren’t being passed up.”

Chris Herbert, Chief Content Officer, Pluralsight emphasises the need for investment in upskilling talent amid significant technology skill gaps which are holding organisations back: “Research shows 78% of organisations have had to abandon projects due to a lack of employees with the right skills to carry them out. So, investing in upskilling and reskilling the workforce allows businesses to modernise and create fulfilling careers for tech workers. Online learning platforms, bootcamps, apprenticeships, and certification programmes are also effective in supplementing traditional education, equipping young professionals with the required tech skills.”

Advocating for the value of mentorship, Gemma Donnelly, Electronics Technician, Dexory, says “Mentorship plays a crucial role in helping young people develop the skills necessary for a successful career. When working in childcare, I would’ve never envisioned I’d end up having a career building cutting edge robots. It was only through the guidance of my aunt that I made the transition into the tech industry, learning to solder and assemble electronics despite having no technical background. Having someone experienced guiding you can have a life changing impact on a young person’s career, but they also need to be ready to embrace the unexpected and be open to exploring new career paths. I encourage young people to seek out knowledgeable mentors, welcome new challenges, and remain resilient as they navigate their career journeys.”  

Preparing for a technology-driven future: developing collaborative skills

Encouraging the prioritisation of data and AI literacy, James Fisher, Chief Strategy Officer, Qlik, says, “Advanced technologies like AI have created many new opportunities for the new generation. This is all driven by data. Education institutions and businesses must continuously upskill young people with modern data and AI literacy skills, crucial across all sectors. Prioritising ongoing learning in the workplace ensures young employees gain necessary data skills to thrive in our data-driven world.”

Emphasising that young people need to develop collaboration skills to work effectively with both humans and machines, Jessica Guistolise, Evangelist, Lucid, says, “For those entering the tech industry, it’s important to understand how to collaborate effectively with their team members and learn how to optimise the use of AI responsibly. Mastering these skills will help them be adaptable, have the ability to prioritise tasks, communicate effectively and fully leverage AI to contribute to the success of their projects and initiatives.”

Clare Loveridge, VP & GM EMEA, Arctic Wolf, stresses integrating real-world experience to address the cybersecurity skills gap needs to be a key focus among both businesses and educational organisations alike: “This begins by ensuring STEM students are taught the practical problem-solving skills actually required for cybersecurity careers. In this way, educational organisations can use students to boost their teams, providing students with hands-on experience while also protecting their own assets. Similarly, Cybersecurity firms should offer internships and work experiences to prepare students what a career in cybersecurity looks like. This will ensure that when they graduate, they are ultimately ready to hit the ground running.”

The advent of generative AI and technologies like ChatGPT underscores the importance of building a new generation of skilled younger workers, capable of navigating this entirely new landscape. Equipping young people with the right skills for the future is a collective responsibility – and the onus is on businesses, educational institutions, and policymakers to do so. By embracing diverse upskilling pathways, investing in technology, fostering collaboration, and emphasising AI proficiency, we can bridge the skills gap and prepare the next generation for a technology-driven future.

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Slow but steady: Understanding the smart home revolution

Gavin Miller, CEO, Asurion Europe

As a society, our reliance on digital devices continues to grow as we find new ways to weave connected technology into all manner of products. In the past decade or so we have seen TVs, speakers, doorbells and more incorporating ‘smart’ elements, adding to our network of home devices. Consumers are keen to adopt tools that save time and money, and strengthen safety. The proof is in the numbers: the global smart home appliance market, for instance, is set to more than double in value – from $59 billion in 2022 to $143 billion by 2030.[i]

All this technology is changing the way we go about our daily activities. We are able to do chores like our weekly food shop without leaving the home and enjoy entertainment via multiple platforms. But this is not to say we have disregarded the old ways completely. Book consumption has risen[ii] and for some items we still prefer to go to a physical store. To take advantage of emerging opportunities, technology manufacturers and retailers must be able to understand changing behaviours and anticipate future trends.

The current state of play

In 2016, around two thirds of the population were familiar with the idea of smart home technology, but that number has grown over the last seven years – driven in part by the popularity of items like smart speakers.[iii]  

According to one 2023 analysis, the percentage of UK adults owning at least one connected home device sat at around 80%, a three percent growth from 2022 – reflecting the leisurely but reliable increase in uptake in this sector.[iv] This ownership is reasonably consistent through different age groups, though differences emerge when we look at multi-device ownership. 43% of 16-24 year olds and 45% of 25-34 year olds own three or more devices, a significant increase compared to the overall UK multi-ownership average of 34%. These groups are key to the future adoption of these devices; as they continue to gain spending power and move into their own homes, it is likely they will acquire more smart products.

While awareness of connected products has certainly grown, there is a mixed picture when we attempt to understand how frequently we are purchasing and using these products. To gain a clearer understanding, Asurion Europe’s recent study investigated the adoption and usage rates of smart home devices in the last few years.

Measuring growth: Adoption & usage

Asurion’s Adoption Index reflects the population’s access to devices and channels, based on factors such as: internet users, adult social media users, mobile internet users, wearable owners and the penetration of smart home devices. Meanwhile, the Usage Index displays the amount of time we actually spend using these products, for activities like browsing the internet and social media, streaming TV, playing on games consoles, and online shopping.

There is an important distinction between the two. Though someone may have a social media account or own a smartwatch, it is not necessarily the case that they using the account or smartwatch. In fact, YouGov found that around one in ten smart watch owners do not use their device[v]. For platforms like social media accounts which are free to acquire, this number is likely to be much higher.

This explains why usage rates typically lag behind adoption, as Asurion found in the study. When a new smart home product enters the market, there is often a gap from the point where it is an item of novelty to when it has become a well-used part of the furniture.

The opportunity gap

With that in mind, the Adoption and Usage indices below give us two very different but useful insights. The Usage Index demonstrates our current dependency, while the Adoption Index indicates our potential future dependency. Monitoring these indices in the coming years should shed light on the speed of usage, and when we are likely to see the latest home tech truly take off. The current gap between adoption and usage therefore represents an opportunity for technology firms, highlighting crucial points for promoting products, stimulating further usage or encouraging eventual device replacement or upgrades.

Technology companies who are acutely aware of these changing trends and demands from their customer base will be best placed to develop offerings that capture the imagination of consumers. However, as we become more reliant on the connected functionality of our devices and their ability to perform a range of tasks, the inconvenience of device failures will only become greater. In fact, our recent survey of over 2,000 consumers found that at least once a quarter, over a third of respondents experience a significant issue with one electronic device in the home. This means support from comprehensive and affordable tech protection services will be increasingly valuable to ensure the full collection of devices in our connected homes remain up and running.

As CEO of Asurion Europe, Gavin Miller is leading the expansion of the global tech care company in the region. Gavin started his career at global customer experience company Sitel (now Foundever) before moving on to C-suite roles supporting rapid growth and acquisition in a range of businesses, including the largest telephone fundraising specialist in the UK, a commercial contact centre business and a provider of debt management services.

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Embracing linguistic diversity in the workplace to achieve global growth

Laura Maffucci, Head of HR at G-P

Embracing linguistic diversity is imperative in today’s increasingly globalised workforce.

While English is considered the current global lingua franca for business, employers that acknowledge the variety of languages and communication styles within a society and ensure an inclusive experience for all employees – regardless of native language – will be the ones that thrive.

As multinational companies navigate global teams, understanding and accommodating linguistic diversity in the workplace is crucial for effective communication and productivity.

So, how can companies promote greater linguistic diversity to enhance productivity and business outcomes across teams, and adopt a real global mindset?

Developing a global mindset

A global mindset is essential for businesses seeking growth. Research from G-P shows that despite pressures of economic uncertainty and talent shortages, a majority of C-suite leaders (73%) are prioritising growth and are increasingly looking beyond borders to access the best talent – with 81% already actively engaged in global recruitment.

However, nearly half of employees (49%) question their company’s readiness for global expansion citing concerns about effective cross-border collaboration. There’s a clear disparity between those who value cross-cultural communication, with over half (51%) of employees valuing it compared to only one in three (36%) executives who do.

Cross-cultural communication and linguistic diversity are interconnected concepts that require an understanding of language diversity and cultural differences to foster effective communication and collaboration across diverse cultural contexts. They’re vital for successfully managing globally distributed teams, facilitating clear communication, alignment on goals, and fostering transparency and trust.

Tackling language barriers across borders

Addressing linguistic barriers is crucial for promoting collaboration among multicultural teams, as research suggests that diverse teams are more adept at tackling complex problems and driving business success. However, the dominance of certain languages, such as English, can marginalise employees whose native language differs, and hinder access to a diverse global talent pool, thereby limiting innovation and growth for businesses.

Multinational companies can overcome these challenges by implementing targeted strategies to foster inclusivity and harness the benefits of linguistic diversity. These could include:

Provide language training

Provide language training opportunities for employees to learn easier ways to communicate, particularly in a professional environment. For example, non-native speakers might want to upskill in English, but equally, English speakers might want to learn an additional language to communicate better with their colleagues overseas.

Discourage jargon

Encourage employees to avoid using complicated and unnecessary jargon, particularly in company-wide materials. Using clear and straightforward language ensures that messages are easily translated and understood by all team members, regardless of their native language.

Respect cultural diversity

Facilitate cross-cultural interactions through team-building activities or global exchange programs to break down barriers among employees from different cultural backgrounds. Fostering mutual understanding and respect for cultural differences can help reduce cultural clashes and promote a harmonious work environment.

By adopting these proactive measures, organisations can enhance cross-cultural collaboration, leverage diverse perspectives for innovation and position themselves as magnets for top talent. Ultimately, these strategies lay the groundwork for an inclusive workplace, heightened employee satisfaction and sustainable business growth.

Embracing linguistic diversity

It’s clear linguistic diversity enriches organisations by fostering varied perspectives, ways of thinking, and creative problem-solving approaches. It should be seen not only as a nice-to-have but as a valuable asset that enhances employee experience, improves workforce productivity and outcomes and better positions organisations to thrive in the global business landscape.

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