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The coronavirus pandemic has impacted virtually every industry and wrought significant changes across companies and organizations of all shapes and sizes. The current job market is precarious, and the last 12 months have illustrated that it is subject to forces outside of human control. As the next generation sets about building promising careers, what areas and skill sets should they focus on, and how can they prepare for jobs that don’t yet exist?

Technology, renewable energy, and healthcare remain vital.

The 4th Industrial Revolution is the concept being used to describe the seismic changes society and the workforce that powers it are undergoing. Primarily driven by four specific technological developments: high-speed mobile Internet, AI and automation, big data analytics, and cloud technology, together these areas will have a significant impact on employment figures within the global workforce. 

As these technologies and cyber-physical apparatuses like the Internet of Things and the Internet of Systems are more widely adopted, the demand for innovative software solutions will continue to grow. Coding and data analysis will become more mainstream, and there will be an expectation that young graduates across fields possess at least basic knowledge regarding the role of analytics in shaping business. 

Another area where skilled employees will be in high demand is renewable energy. The pandemic overshadowed the climate crisis in 2020, but a vaccine distribution and surge in travel and consumption will recalibrate the situation. Governments and companies alike will need to look seriously at achieving their climate objectives, and renewable energy such as solar and wind have a vital role to play. 

Healthcare, medicine, and therapeutic professionals will always be in demand, but especially as an aging population looks towards securing more private and personalized approaches to healthcare. 

High quality, innovative digital content will continue to be something in which companies are willing to invest. There is undoubtedly room for pioneering approaches as the saturated online sphere looks for ways to engage with users in authentic and impactful ways.

How do students prepare for jobs that don’t yet exist?

In addition to taking stock of the current situation, it is critical to account for the fact that many of the jobs that will define the coming decades simply don’t exist yet. Disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and blockchain are reshaping established social, economic, and political systems in ways that are challenging to anticipate. 

It has been clear for some time that many low-skilled, repetitive jobs are being automated across both high-wage countries and the developing world. Not all high-skilled jobs are impervious, though. Having the opportunity to enter the job market with options will depend on being able to offer something that technology can’t replicate. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills will continue to be in high demand. Still, a demonstrable mastery of the “soft skills,” such as empathy and creativity, will be fundamental to standing out in a pool of talented applicants.  

Amidst the sustained march towards remote work and multicultural teams, growing organizations will need to attract employees with an international mindset. Clients will seek out organizations with proven success operating in multiple cultures and environments. For young people, the ability to build effective, trusting relationships and communicate in more than one language is essential in this context. Experience working in teams and familiarity with workplace dynamics will also be skills that stand out. 

Ultimately, the students best positioned to succeed will have a firm grounding in STEM subjects, demonstrate creativity and lateral thinking, and express their ideas confidently and dynamically. Looking to the future, programs such as the IBDP, with character and extracurricular development at its core, will provide young people with a competitive edge. 

In addition to being held to the highest standards of academic excellence, students are encouraged to think independently, cultivate deeper cultural awareness, and effectively engage with others in an increasingly globalized world.