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Going digital can help bridge the skills gap

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Over the past decade, we have witnessed a significant shift in how the world operates. We continue to see ground-breaking advancements in technology which are impacting all aspects of everyday life. From running a business to raising a family, technology is now playing a leading role in every community, sparking a global shift in the way society operates.
This phase of innovation is being referred to as the 'Fourth Industrial Revolution'. Building on the Third Revolution which focused on using electronics and information technology to automate production, we are now entering a digital revolution which is fusing technology into everything we do. The speed and depth of digital innovation is unparalleled and is disrupting nearly every industry across the market. As we become more reliant on technology, both personally and professionally, our approach to everyday activities is inevitably evolving.

The impact of this shift has become especially evident in consumer behaviour. While technological advancements are providing unique purchase opportunities, from drones to the latest smart TV, it is the platform these items are being purchased on which is crucial. According to a recent study by Pew Research, 79 per cent of today's consumers prefer to make purchases online and these figures are only set to grow. Looking at the UAE market specifically, global management consultant AT Kearney estimates that e-commerce will grow at an annual rate of 25 per cent leading up to 2020.

As consumer behaviour evolves and they are demanding faster, more convenient and cost-effective services, businesses must quickly adapt to stay ahead of the curve. Organisations must leverage technology to make every day operations more efficient. Many are streamlining their processes, implementing new, more efficient operating systems, and even integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into their everyday business.

Many organisations in the UAE have been moving towards digital, in line with the UAE Vision 2021.

We have also seen the UAE government take a prominent role in driving technological innovation and encouraging its residents to go digital. As part of the UAE Vision 2021, the country is driving digital transformation through innovation, economic competitiveness and smart initiatives and has also recently appointed an official Minister of AI.

Of course, this digital revolution is not about replacing humans with technology, but aligning them to create an even more powerful workforce. This leads to one key issue which the digital revolution has sparked: the skills gap. The skillset required by younger generations to succeed in the workforce is very different than it was a decade ago. While the younger generations are being educated and getting their degree, they are not necessarily learning the right tools to be successful in tomorrow's market.

So, the question remains: are we providing future generations with the right skills to succeed?

According to a recent report conducted with YouGov, 49 per cent of UAE respondents believe there is a skills gap in the market and 26 per cent of Middle East job seekers claim the educational system doesn't train students on skills which are relevant in today's workplace. Additionally, according to the World Economic Forum's 'Future of Jobs' analysis, 21 per cent of core skills required across all occupations will be different by 2020.

IDC, the global market intelligence firm, also projected that more than one in three IT positions will be cloud-related by 2020 and the availability and skill level of cloud professionals will have a direct impact on business success.

Organisations in the UAE, as well as globally, must ensure that the current and future workforce is fully equipped for this digital shift. For future generations, academic curriculums must integrate digital education into its teachings and, for current employees, we must provide relevant training to ensure they are able to grow with the market.

A great example for us to follow is the UAE's recent launch of the One Million Arab Coders initiative. The initiative will provide participants with free training in developing computer codes, in line with achieving the UAE's goals of a future digital economy. Another example is Microsoft Gulf, who recently launched a cloud-related training and certification offer for UAE IT professionals which aims to increase the adoption of new cloud technologies and help participants advance their technical skills.

Moving forward, it is crucial that we encourage and empower individuals to stay ahead of the digital revolution. As the world continues to move towards a digital marketplace, there is an ongoing need to evolve academic and training curriculums along with it. To ensure the success of future generations, as well as our economy, the skills gap must be filled.