Whether you are looking to upskill your current workforce or hire new talent, staying abreast of the core skills required for the workforce in the near future is essential for business sustainability and success. Automation is fast changing the workplace, meaning there needs to be an increased focus on skills that will allow us to work alongside machinery or fulfil tasks that machinery still cannot, i.e. human soft skills such as emotional intelligence and people management.  

While many jobs will cease to exist due to automation, millions of new ones will also be created in the process as we enter Industry 4.0. Workers will need to develop certain skills in order to navigate this transformative shift and provide value in a largely automated world, and employees will need to put relevant upskilling and training opportunities into place.

Unfortunately, many Australian businesses report a concerning lack of essential literacy, numeracy and interpersonal skills among their staff (see survey conducted by the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies). This has real-life implications on businesses, with the Survey of Workforce Development Needs finding that employees were most concerned about the following impacts:

  • poor completion of workplace documents and reports (42%)
  • material wastage and errors (32%)
  • teamwork and communication problems (28%) and
  • time wasting (27%)

As well as foundational literacy and numeracy skills, advanced STEM skills are needed in order to keep up with increasingly advanced AI machinery. Conversely, improved soft skills are also needed to do what machinery cannot. The World Economic Forum identified the core skills that are needed in 2020 in its Future of Jobs report, which can be found juxtaposed below with the skills needed for 2015:

So what do these skills look like in action?

Complex problem solving

As AI gets more sophisticated, workers also need to be able to keep up with and understand the complex relationships between industries and technologies. Workers must have the knowledge to craft creative solutions to problems that haven’t even arisen yet.

Critical thinking

The increasing complexity and quantity of data available to us necessitates insightful interpretations, with the interconnectedness between various fields having to be understood and expounded.


Humans are wildly creative, and this is something that AI machines still cannot beat. With the influx of new technologies and ways of working, employees will have to generate forward-thinking ideas and solutions.

People management

It goes without saying that robots will never outdo humans when it comes to people management. Leadership and managerial roles in particular will require strong people skills well into the future.

Coordinating with others

Similarly, workers will also need to develop effective communication and collaboration skills no matter what industry they are in.

Emotional intelligence

Again, a human touch is needed in the workplace in the form of emotional intelligence. Managers especially will require traits such as empathy in order to ensure employee wellbeing and satisfaction.

Judgement and decision making

The rise of data analytics requires the ability to provide insightful interpretations and make decisions based on the information provided.

Service orientation

Customer service will always require human interaction, with the ability to provide value to clients being necessary for a variety of businesses.


As industries become more interconnected, the ability to negotiate between different parties is needed to come up with a win-win situation for all.

Cognitive flexibility

The rise of combined industries means workers will constantly have to adapt to different challenges and situations.


For those still studying and weighing up their career options, it is also worth being aware of the jobs that will be most in-demand from 2020 onwards:

  • Data analysts
  • Medical technicians, physical therapists and workplace ergonomics experts
  • Sales and marketing specialists
  • Customer service representatives
  • Management analysts
  • Software developers and computational programmers
  • Veterinarians
  • Product designers and creatives
  • Teachers and trainers
  • Accountants and auditors

If you are currently in a role which is at high risk of automation, such as bookkeeping, underwriting or secretarial work, it would be wise to develop the above skills and competencies to increase your value in the workforce.

Learning how to learn is perhaps the most important skill of all, as constant self improvement and awareness of workplace demands are needed in order to thrive in the digital workforce of the not-so-distant future. By staying abreast of the most in-demand skills, workers can ensure their ongoing employability and competitiveness in an increasingly automated world.

When it comes to the foundational skills that have been shown to be lacking among Australian workers, Ai Group suggest the following solutions:

  • A National Foundation Skill Strategy which involves government consultations with industry to strengthen foundation skills
  • An Employer Champions Network which allows employers to advocate to other employers about the benefits of a skills program
  • A Return on Investment awareness campaign in which the Australian Government and industry promote the benefits of investing in workplace foundation skills programs
  • A New National Program which allows for a skills program to be delivered directly to workplaces
  • The Language, Literacy and Numeracy Practitioner Scholarships Programme to be expanded by the government, and the completion of scholarships to be linked to offers of employment.

In order to gain a competitive edge, it is necessary to upskill and get ahead of both STEM and soft skills. Ai Group Talent Solutions offer Higher Apprenticeships to future-proof businesses – contact us directly to speak to an expert.

E: talent@aigroup.com.au

P: 1300 436 088