by Professor Dr. Sofri Bin Yahya

To better prepare for future jobs, education should be able to nurture or create graduates with these following 4As skills:

Ability, Automation, Algorithms and Agility.

Assalamualaikum wbt and Salam Sejahtera;

I would like to begin this discussion with the purpose of higher education. Although it sounds too basic, but I believe it is fundamental, as what John F. Kennedy claimed to say “Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”

There has been a debate for many years on this particular topic. I personally concur with Andrés Fortino that the primary objective of higher education is and should be the creation of prepared minds.

Having looked at the word “university” itself: the prefix, uni, Latin for “unity, to be one”; and the stem, vers, “to turn.” Although disciplines and faculties on campus may divide us, diverse in our opinions and areas of interest, we as academicians should share
the same aspiration and goal, to nurture and develop minds or graduates with the set of skills required at that time.

Many studies have shown, graduates need to be equipped with the right characters and skillset to be relevant going forward. Findings from various studies, by the year 2025 the skills required by job markets could be summarised in four As; Ability, Automation, Algorithms and Agility.

Firstly, ability of a worker to carry out tasks and responsibilities required in the context of social, technological, environmental, economic and regulatory requirements at that time. A comprehensive study by the World Economic Forum, Future of Jobs (2018), the increasingly needed skills by 2022 are ‘human’ skills such as creativity, originality and initiative, critical thinking, persuasion and negotiation, resilience, flexibility and complex problem-solving together with active learning and learning strategies. Emotional intelligence, leadership and social influence as well as service orientation also see an outsized increase in demand relative to their current prominence.

Secondly is having the functional competency to manage and fulfil various stakeholders’ needs which are related to automation, from services (including products) to operations (including production). The McKinsey Global Institute has completed a research on automation technologies and their potential effects. In the report, A future that works: Automation, employment, and productivity, it highlights the automation of processes and services can enable businesses to improve performance by reducing errors and improving quality and speed, and in some cases achieving outcomes that go beyond human capabilities. Automation also contributes to productivity, as it has done historically.

Thirdly, skills that need to be nurtured among graduates are the ability to manage data using algorithms. According to an article published by Deloitte, The Algorithms Revolution is here; Algorithms is the routine processes or sequences of instructions for analysing data, solving problems and performing tasks. The rise of advanced data analytics and cognitive technologies has led to an explosion in the use of algorithms across a range of purposes, industries, and business functions. Decisions that have a profound impact on individuals are being influenced by these algorithms-including what information individuals are exposed to, transportation to use, what jobs they are offered, whether their loan applications are approved, what medical treatment their doctors recommend, and even their treatment in the judicial system.

Fourthly, we can see a trend which workers will need to have other appropriate skills enabling them to grow in the workplace of the future and the ability to continue to retrain throughout their lives. According to World Economic Forum report, agility and a mindset of agile learning will also be needed on the part of workers as they shift from the routines and limits of today’s jobs to new, previously unimagined futures.

Therefore, as recommended by World Economic Forum, policy-makers, regulators and educators will need to play a fundamental role in helping those who are displaced repurpose their skills or retrain to acquire new skills and to invest heavily in the development of new agile learners in future workforces by tackling improvements to education and training systems, as well as updating labor policy to match the realities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.