One of the things you have to recognize is the degree to which our societies are changing — the degree to which manual, repetitive work has been automated over the last 50 or so years.
The continuing automation of society means human beings have increasingly focused on “higher-level” work.
Go back 100 years and a huge proportion of our society is either working on a farm or working in a factory. Hardly anyone works on farms any more—we have machines that do the work humans used to do. Our factories are massively automated with mass production technologies.
So as we’ve moved through the First Industrial Revolution all the way into this Fourth Industrial Revolution and the information economy, the skills people require are different.
And yes, as a developed nation, we’ve moved at pace to adapt. But we’ve still not been able to keep up with the pace of change. So what happens is that you have a proportion of the population that is wedded to older, less valuable work. And then you get this new generation of internet natives and recent graduates who are totally comfortable in this new digitally led world.
So, why are we struggling today with a skills gap? Because we haven’t shifted quickly enough into the Fourth Industrial Revolution—a revolution defined by more skills-based, more right brain-based creative work. That requires significant societal shifts. Right now, we’re probably in the middle of that shift.
And we may not have sufficient facilities to educate everybody such that they learn the skills that this Fourth Industrial Revolution demands. Two areas where there is now a huge demand for skills are cybersecurity and data science. In neither of those areas are universities or professional organizations training enough people. We do not have sufficient talent coming through to fill our needs.
It’s not as if the end is in sight. These new technologies are emerging at an ever-faster rate—AI, machine learning, blockchain. Years ago, when a technology with the level of impact of AI came along, you could build a workforce over a few years. Now, technologies emerge so quickly that it’s becoming difficult to educate people quickly enough. This isn’t getting any easier; it’s getting more complex.