Preparing for a Future-Ready Economy
The onset of the fourth Industrial Revolution has brought forward many concerns; the most
important of it being the possibility of traditional skills getting replaced by new skills. In such a
scenario, how can individuals and entrepreneurs prepare in advance to thrive in a future-ready
Few years ago, when you would dial the number of a cinema hall to book your tickets, your queries
would be answered by an individual who would look into her system and advise you on the show
timings, book tickets for you and sometimes even hold tickets for those who would wish to come
and pay in person.
But today when you dial the same board-line number, you first speak to a virtual operator who
understands your requirements and then suggests options accordingly. Now, there are two sides to
the coin - some individuals appreciate the development while some get frustrated because it takes
too long to get hold of an actual person who can answer their complex queries for which the virtual
operator is not trained.
Welcome to the world of the fourth Industrial Revolution where automation and digitization have
taken over the world. From hospitals to travel industry to marketing, everything is influenced by it.
Amidst all these, however, a larger chunk of the workforce is fearing unemployment due to the
increased level of digitization and lesser requirement of those with general skills. According to the
Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week Future Skills 2030, technological advancement is expected to
increase the number of jobs in previously non-existing sectors such as Artificial Intelligence,
Robotics, Automation and Advanced Manufacturing, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR),
big data and analysis. This means that those with general skills will have to upgrade their
knowledge to these Future Skills to be able to succeed in the new era marked by rapid
“The World Economic Forum describes the top three skills required in the Fourth Industrial
Revolution as: Complex Problem Solving, Critical Thinking and Creativity,” says Hani Asfour,
Associate Dean of Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation. Jim Yong Kim, former group President
of the World Bank adds interpersonal skills and collaboration to this list too. He feels that it is a
great challenge to equip the younger generation with these skills which they would need, no matter
what future jobs look like.
“Automation and machinery have already, if not soon, become the norm,” says Hani. “In
architecture alone we expect 40% of the daily tasks of the architect to be completed by machines,
more accurately and efficiently. This includes simple tasks as area and material calculation to more
complex tasks such as 3D form generation and parametric permutations.” While these
developments would imply an increase in efficiency and productivity, are people responding to
these changes positively?
“I think people who’re currently working in jobs are getting habituated with managing data unlike
those who aren’t,” says Muhammed Chibb, a serial entrepreneur and the founder of Tejawal and
Almosafer. “For example, a few years ago if a marketer told his client that he thinks his customers
would like things to be done a certain way, the customer would believe him. But today, he needs to
present data to show how customers are reacting to the changes in real time to be able to
convince someone to proceed with a strategy in mind. Hence, our decisions have become more
knowledge based and that reduces the possibility of errors and ambiguity.”
So for those who are in the market place, adjusting wouldn’t be that big an issue because they’re
gradually developing with the needs of the market. But for others who are either not working or
working who haven’t adapted to changing environments, there is no way out because If a client
fails to receive information backed up by data analysis, thanks to a globally converging market, he
can look out for a solution elsewhere leaving no option for local entrepreneurs to upgrade their
skills. Therefore, future skills adaptation isn’t anymore a choice, it is a necessity.
Muhammed and Hani, however, feel that these advancements will create more job opportunities
where people’s skills would be used in the right place and more productively. “Some jobs like
software handlers, developers, computer scientists and other specialised jobs would increase,”
says Muhammed. Hani, on the other hand, feels that jobs like augmented reality designers, drone
experience designers and internet of things conductors would increase.
The UAE has already undertaken big steps to equip the younger generation with skills required to
face future challenges and achieve the core goals of Vision 2021 and Centennial 2071. The UAE
National Innovation Strategy too focuses on renewable energy, transport, education, health,
technology, water and space. Meanwhile, the National Employment Strategy of 2031 also aims to
empower labour productivity by increasing the number of research and development personnel,
promoting entrepreneurship, promoting lifelong learning programs, training on future skills and skill
development programs and focusing on attracting talent by enhancing knowledge and cultural
A major concern hovering around most industries is that with the use of future skills, would there
be no need of a personal touch to services rendered? And how would machines be able to answer
complex issues which a human brain can answer much quicker.
“The lack of a personal touch is precisely why I feel design is at the core of the fourth industrial
revolution if we wish to succeed,” says Hani. “Design starts with empathizing with the user.
Sincerely caring about who is interfacing with your product or service will ensure its consistent
value. So, as we teach in design, we have to enter into the field and listen to users and capture
their pain points and identify solutions to address their concerns. This will revolutionize how we
typically think of productions.” Most often businesses tend to think of the viability first and the
engineering tends to focus on technology and feasibility. Designers add to that mix a human-
centered approach, where the desirability of the product ensures the customer’s fulfillment.
According to Muhammed too, if someone wishes to travel, would he depend on the advice of a
physical travel agent who may suggest options to him based on mental speculations or some
ongoing trends or would the advice of a robot who tells him what 200,000 people from his
nationality, income group, tastes and preferences have loved. The choice is quite simple. The
human touch wouldn’t be lost because they can then focus on better and bigger things leaving the
routine works to be done by the machines.
Therefore, preparing oneself for the fourth industrial revolution by acquiring these future skills
would not only help one create more, develop more and deliver more, but would also increase the
efficiency and effectivity of all other tasks being taken care of by virtual intelligence.