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The most important skills of tomorrow, according to five global leaders

Stephanie Thomson | Editor, World Economic Forum
Oli Scarff | Getty Images

According to research from the World Economic Forum, 35 percent of the skills you need to thrive in a job today will be different five years from now.

So, how do workers and students prepare for a workplace of the future if we're not quite sure what it will look like? Five of WEF's Young Global Leaders reveal the skills of tomorrow.

Soft skills

Esteban Bullrich, Argentina's Education Minister

A child today can expect to change jobs at least seven times over the course of their lives – and five of those jobs don't exist yet.

To get a better understanding of the skills that will be needed, we conducted a country-wide survey, that found soft skills – such as teamwork, knowledge of digital tools, an understanding of rules and regulations, responsibility and commitment – are the most relevant for the future.

How can we teach our children these skills? In Argentina, we're teaching them across all subjects, and in Buenos Aires, we've introduced innovative classes like coding and entrepreneurship.

We've also gone beyond the school gates, by creating neighborhood youth clubs where children can continue learning these skills. We're also ensuring that each student completes a 200-hour professional practice course, so they can apply all the skills they're learning to the world of work.

Gen Z is about to hit the workforce

Data literacy plus empathy

Belinda Parmar, CEO of The Empathy Business

Sometimes, when we perceive the world through data-driven models, it can be harder to see the humanity behind the numbers. Technology has the potential to erode our sense of empathy.

The challenge of the next 10 years will be to rebuild the empathy that we've lost. Companies will be looking for leaders who are able to help them do that - people with a trio of technical, linguistic and mathematical skills, who can make sense of the torrents of information that will continue to emerge.

This will require a new kind of "data literacy", which will be in short supply, and therefore one of the most important skills of tomorrow.

Empathy- teachers

Vikas Pota, CEO of the Varkey Foundation

It's impossible to predict which "hard skills" children in today's classrooms will need for jobs in 15 years' time. Who could have conceived two decades ago that there would be a whole new industry in search engine optimization?

The jobs that artificial intelligence can't replace will be those that require strong human character traits. Workers will need empathy – the ability to persuade and to work well with others. They'll need a positive attitude – the ability to relearn, go back to college, and adapt to new situations. Thriving in this uncertain world, where careers could change every few years, will also require resilience.

These "soft" skills are hard to teach and, as much as mathematics or science, will demand great teachers.

What's top on the list of workplace trends?

Critical thinking

Biola Alabi, founder of Grooming for Greatness

Given how much "noise" there is in this digital age, individuals must be able to sieve through huge volumes of data to establish which information is most relevant – and to make quick decisions based on this.

Adaptability will be another crucial skill. The challenges organizations face are more complex than in the past, so specializations will no longer be enough to solve key problems. We will instead need to develop skills that allow us to navigate and find comfort in ambiguity.

A person's capacity to apply concepts, ideas and problem-solving techniques across different sectors will determine whether or not they'll thrive.

Entrepreneurial spirit

Veronica Colondam, founder and CEO of the YCAB Foundation

The entrepreneurial spirit could be the key to pulling people out of poverty. I've seen this first-hand: when people are given access to capital, and are taught the skills needed to grow their business (such as financial literacy), their incomes often double or even triple.

But it's not enough to be innovative, or collaborative, it's also about knowing when to apply each of them, and how they can be used in a business context.

If we can ensure impoverished people are equipped with these skills, we'll help create a generation of innovators who're not only surviving, but are actually contributing to improving the state of the world.

The Young Global Leaders and Alumni Annual Summit is taking place from 18 to 21 October in Tokyo.

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