What are the skills of the future?

What are the skills of the future?

'Meta skills' will be vital to success in an uncertain future, says Tess Howe, our Head of Membership and Partnerships.
Three farmers walk a field with instructor Scott Dowell, of Autospray Systems, on a drone training course at Harper Adams University.
The pace of change in the industry will require farmers and growers to develop new skills.
The pace of change in the industry will require farmers and growers to develop new skills.

In September, I was asked to present on industry future skills needed at the IAgrM Lecturer’s Day. So, what does an industry facing monumental change really need?

Reports suggest that we don’t even know the jobs our children will be doing in 20 years' time, so can we predict with any accuracy what our future skills will be?

Sadly, I'm no Mystic Meg, but thankfully, we might not need a crystal ball.   

In our recent labour market research, we asked those working in the sector what they thought, and a lot of answers focused on more of the same, but with so many of our businesses restricted by the current labour availability, it’s not hard to understand why people struggle to see beyond their immediate needs.   

However, amid the uncertainty, there are three things we can be sure of:  

  • There will be change, sometimes small, but often significant  
  • We can’t change our workforce overnight; skills need planning and developing   
  • We need more collaboration across the relevant government departments  

Individually, we might not be able to affect the list above, but clearly, we can develop an agile mindset for ourselves and those we work with. Resilient, adaptable staff are the cornerstone of a resilient business.  

Meta skills increasing in importance

In our research, soft skills came to the fore, especially in response to a tightening labour supply, and there's a bigger focus on recruitment and retention. But is this right, or would we be better off focusing on our so-called meta-skills – the skills that help us learn and apply other skills? 

While these may appear like soft skills, the key difference is that meta-skills foster an ongoing enthusiasm for and commitment to lifelong learning. Fundamentally, they are the super-power behind how to learn new skills.   

In an evolving industry, adaptability will be a competitive advantage and one we can all work on. Adapting our mindset and adopting new ways of working is key. Self-awareness, creativity , and resilience are the skills of the future.  

Creative thinking and resilience are vital

Yet, research shows that while 90% of people believe they are self-aware, only 15%  are. Knowing yourself, accepting reality, and being more empathetic with others is all valuable. Equally, a new reality requires a new way of thinking; creativity combined with resilience is vital. Failure is guaranteed in life; how we react and respond is the key to setting ourselves apart from others.  

So, while we all may be unclear about exactly how our businesses will need to change in the future, developing our meta-skills is a sound insurance policy for the viability of our future industry. 

We are leading the discussion about the changing skills needed in agriculture and horticulture, and we're asking forward-thinking farmers, growers, and researchers to share their opinions too. Find out how you can help shape the skill sets of the future by becoming part of our Future Skills group.

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