- Thought Leadership
McKinsey Digital Future of Work Summit: Skills that will count in the future
I think for young people today, what's clear is that they're going to need to continue to learn throughout their lifetime. The idea that you get an education when you're young and then you stop and you go and work for 40 or 50 years with that educational training and that's it? That's over.
All of us are going to have to continue to adapt, get new skills, go back, possibly, for different types of training and credentials, but I think what's very clear is that what our kids need to do is learn how to learn and become very flexible and adaptable.
The future of work that a college graduate is looking at today is so different from the future of work that I looked at when I was a college graduate. There's far less structure. There's far less predictability. You don't know that you can invest in a particular set of capabilities today, and that they will be valuable in 20 years.
We used to be able to say, "Well, this is the career I'm going to choose." That's a difficult bet to make today with so much change.
We actually found that, for example, something like 60% of all occupations have on average 30% of the activities in those occupations that are automatable.
What does that mean? It basically means that we're going to see more people working alongside machines, whether you call that artificial augmentation or augmented intelligence, but we're going to see a lot more of that.
That's actually quite important because it raises a whole sense of imperatives. It means that more skill is going to be required to make the most of what the machines can do for the humans.
I'm the mother of two teenage sons, 18 and 20. I think about, "How do I advise them" all the time. What I tell them is, it matters far less what they choose to study than the skills they build.
I advise them to hone creative skills. I've actually got an actor and a musician, so that's not hard. But I tell them to think about analytic skills, creative skills, human skills, self-presentation, being able to connect to others, being able to sell, in the sense of persuade.
I think of my own son, who's 16, and on the one end I think he should study science and he should understand systems, but would I tell him just to focus on coding? I actually don't think I would. Machines aren't going to be very good at coding, by the way. Would I ask him to focus just on statistics? No, because I think machines can calculate statistics and analytical things incredibly well.
But I think it's important to understand how statistics work. I know that's what he's going to be doing because he needs to understand that, and an ever more system-level view of those things, and be able to think in a computer science-like way and understand systems and engineering systems.
Actually, the skills that I would recommend an 18-year-old think about, may or may not fit in the traditional definition of skills, is try stuff that you never thought about. If you try things that you never thought about, you may find that you have skills and talents that you never realized you had.
Being able to challenge your own assumptions about what you're good at and what you can do, creates massive opportunities to put yourself on a path that'll make you happy and successful.