What Skills Will Be Key For Development Workers In Future?

As the technologies typified by the 4th industrial revolution begin to slowly make a dent on the workplace, I’ve written numerous times about the importance of developing your skills so that you can not only work effectively in those technologies, but also alongside them as your work becomes augmented in various ways.

What might those skills be however?  That was the question posed by a recent report produced by Devex in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development and DAI explores precisely what some of those skills might be.

Suffice to say, the report is focused on the development community, but nonetheless, the results are interesting as they show a clear divergence away from the hyped technologies such as AI and blockchain, and a strong focus on areas such as geographical information systems and big data.

The report saw around 2,500 development professionals quizzed on what they thought the future of development work would entail, and what skills and technologies would be worked with in the future.

A changing world

As is common in many industries, the development community are under no illusions that changes are coming.  Indeed, 86% of respondents believe that major changes in both the skills they will need and the career paths available to them are coming.  It underlines the importance of learning new skills and keeping an open mind as to the path your career takes.

“As different technologies develop, new possibilities will open up that we may not even be aware of yet,” one respondent said. “This will open up opportunities that bring new people into the development sector, and require those in it to be more agile in adapting technologies to assist in meeting development challenges.”

It’s perhaps not that surprising that many respondents said they were hoping to develop IT skills, with nearly 40% saying this will be a key area in the future, and a whopping 91% saying they plan to develop their skills in this field.

Rather than hot areas, such as AI, however, most of this development will be in areas such as geographic information systems, technology integration, and big data, which respondents believe will have the biggest impact on their work.  This isn’t a one size fits all world however, and the report urges readers to explore their personal situation before deciding which path to pursue.

“Look at how it has improved the work of development professionals and, by doing so, it will give you a clear understanding on how relevant it will be for you to learn that particular skill — and how it will help the people around you to also benefit from your skill,” one respondent says.

It’s important to note that future skills won’t revolve purely around IT and technology, with soft skills also regarded as vital for the next generation of development workers.  Things such as interpersonal and relational skills were regarded as most important, whilst a large number also rated adaptability and flexibility as critical assets for those planning to work in the sector.

Whereas tech skills can be learned in a classroom however, these softer skills are more likely to be developed through experience, and so respondents urged people to get out and work as much as you can to develop that experience and know how.

It underlines both the opportunity and the challenge that not only development workers face but professionals across sectors.  There is a strong opportunity to capitalize on new technologies, innovations and business models, but also an acknowledgement that to do so will require new skills in order to succeed.  Whether the onus falls on organizations, individuals or society more broadly, the need for constant learning is surely a given.

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