Today’s education and training systems are not keeping up with the current demand for skills and the emergence of new technologies, and the result is a widening skills gap that threatens to hamper $11.5T in global growth.
That’s according to an analysis by the global management and professional services firm Accenture, which concludes that new approaches to learning are desperately needed if businesses are to achieve the growth promised by intelligent technologies.
The research will particularly chime with those in the digital marketing industry, where the impact of emerging technologies and the ever-growing adoption of automation are regular and recurring points of discussion among industry forums.
There’s no shortage of fear-mongering either; in August, the Bank of England's chief economist warned that advances in artificial intelligence (AI) in business threatened to make certain jobs obsolete. But at the same time, a study by KPMG of 150 CEOs found digital transformation expectations from board level to be a burden among many, with a lack of appropriate digital skills in the workforce and the need to retrain staff providing a hindrance.
“The very skills that are growing in importance are not taught in classrooms,” reads the report. “They are acquired through practice and experience, often over long periods of time. Some large corporations are experimenting with new lifelong learning methods, but traditional education and learning systems are ineffective and inappropriate for the new skills challenge.”
One such firm that has taken a proactive approach, PwC announced plans to launch an emerging technologies training programme for 1,000 of its staff, aimed at improving employees’ digital skills through mentoring and assignment to digital-heavy client projects.
Sarah McEneany, the company’s digital and talent leader, said: “It just seems table stakes at this point that people should have more technology skills. It’s needed for us to remain competitive and to be responsive for what our clients are also going through.”
“Our clients are looking for us to do things more digitally and control the cost of what we’re doing,” she added.
According to Accenture, however, the skills deficit is more likely to be felt by the smaller enterprises without such a reservoir of resources to foster the “practice and hands-on experience” and shift in mindset required.
With SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) composing a large part of the market, and 38% of worker time across the globe potentially ripe for automation, the impact of being underprepared will undoubtedly affect the wider economy. In the digital marketing industry specifically, failure to keep up with the pace of this evolution could become another catalyst for the ongoing consolidation of the ad tech industry.
With waters rising, Accenture suggests three approaches with which to help stay afloat with intelligent technologies. That includes making on-the-job training more immersive, engaging and personalised through the use of new tools like virtual reality (VR) and AI; incentivising a broader swatch of skills among employees, rather than targeting the output of an institution in terms of graduates or certifications; and offering more training support and options to older workers, and to those in lower skilled roles, including the use of grants, to encourage personal lifelong learning plans.
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