The professional world is automating at an unprecedented rate. By 2030, 20-40% of young workers' jobs could be automated, putting renewed stress on future-proof skills. While STEM offers security, it's not immune to the automation wave, either.
Many STEM skills and processes are standardized, data-centric and logical, making them ideal for automation. Simultaneously, with tech playing a more substantial role in everyday life, STEM workers are more crucial than ever. In the face of these changing needs, educators and learners alike need to rethink essential STEM skills.
In an automated workforce, the most valuable skills are typically those that are uniquely human. That often involves a focus on soft skills instead of the hard techniques frequently associated with STEM. With that in mind, here are five of the most valuable STEM skills for an automated world.
By Devin Partida
1. Data Interpretation
One of the most popular uses of automation today is big data analysis. While machines can gather and organize unstructured pools of data, someone needs to decipher it. As a result, skills related to drawing real-world insights from these analytics are becoming increasingly valuable.
Anyone can use a program to create charts and graphs, but not everyone can understand what they mean. The ability to take big data analytics and apply them to real-world scenarios will be indispensable. The more companies turn to big data, the more they'll need people to interpret it.
Reusability is already a prominent skill in computer science and software engineering. What makes it so valuable is that it has use far beyond applying existing assets to new processes. STEM workers can apply reusability to virtually anything they encounter in their professional careers.
Reusability can teach people how to apply things they already know to new situations. When they understand this concept on a broader level than computer sciences, they can expand what they bring to the table. This kind of adaptability provides greater job security, especially considering how machines are typically inflexible.
3. Real-World Problem-Solving
Automation can handle the side of STEM that deals with processing data. Automated systems can process unstructured information in as little as eight minutes, but it takes more nuance to use these analytics in the real world. Knowing what tools to use and how to use them is more valuable than competing against them.
Humans can't surpass robots when it comes to structured, data-heavy work. Understanding and solving real-world problems, on the other hand, is an area where humans consistently outperform machines. By focusing on practical applications of scientific processes, STEM workers become far more valuable an asset.
When people think of STEM skills, creativity isn't typically something that comes to mind. Even though the sciences are often methodical, innovation requires out-of-the-box solutions. The ability to find new perspectives and think beyond simple logic also gives humans an advantage over algorithms.
Those who can find creative solutions to problems will be more likely to succeed in heavily automated STEM fields. If STEM students faced more open-ended questions, they could cultivate this creativity. This uniquely human attribute will become all the more valuable as automation increases.
One of the most important STEM skills in an automated world is the ability to collaborate. Just as STEM workers need to adapt their knowledge to different scenarios, they also need to work with various groups. Interoperability is often a stumbling point for machines, making collaboration a strength in humans.
If a worker has better collaborative skills, they can work in a wider variety of circumstances. An individual trying to solve problems on their own will rarely measure up to a single machine doing the same. A team of people, on the other hand, can find better solutions faster.
Prepare for an Automated Future
Today's trend of rapid automation may require people to think differently about STEM skills. The types of abilities and knowledge that will be most valuable in the future are not always those associated with STEM. If people pursue these skills today, they can protect their job security in an automated tomorrow.
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