The Future of Work Has Arrived

Five years ago, experts predicted an imminent workplace transformation, and many believe we are in the throes of that transformation today.


Five years ago, the World Economic Forum predicted more than one-third (35%) of the skills considered important in the workforce will have changed. This sentiment was shared as the world entered the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is characterized by the advent of cyber-physical systems and represents new and unanticipated ways in which technology becomes embedded within industry, society, and daily life. 

Emerging Technologies Driving Change
Fast forward five years and we are in the throes of this transformation, as globalization and digitization have continued to create new opportunities, and COVID-19 has magnified and accelerated the changes needed. In its Jobs of Tomorrow: Mapping Opportunity in the New Economy report, the World Economic Forum revealed seven emerging professional clusters—data and AI, engineering and cloud computing, people and culture, product development, sales, marketing, and content, care economy, and green economy. Within these, 133 million new job roles emerged reflecting the adoption of new technologies and the continuing importance of people in the workplace of the future. 

While these projections indicate emerging professions will account for millions of new job opportunities globally, they also reveal significant job disruption and massive skill gaps. A shift in the division of labor between humans, machines, and algorithms will transform more than 75 million jobs in the next decade. In addition, 42% of core skills required to perform existing jobs are expected to change in the next few years. 

Skills Development is Essential
It is absolutely imperative for people, companies, and governments in both advanced and emerging economies to embrace the situation before us and begin prioritizing reskilling, upskilling, and new skills development to prepare employees for the opportunities before them. While technical skills will undoubtedly be necessary, human skills, including creativity, adaptability, collaboration, time management, and emotional intelligence, are an important part of the equation. 

DEI: Critical Part of Equation
In parallel, the future of work demands greater diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Emerging from the pandemic and recent events is an emphasis on the criticality of racial justice, gender parity, disability inclusion, and LGBTQ+ equality. According to the World Economic Forum, “while the data reflects a diversity of opportunities for workers of all backgrounds and educational levels, further analysis shows a worrying imbalance in those obtaining the latest skills.” It will be just as important for companies and societies to close this gap, ensuring all members of the workforce have equal opportunities to thrive, as it is to provide learning opportunities and skills development. 

What lies ahead for professionals working in the science of food?
What impact will these trends have on our industry? How can you prepare and be ready for the massive change ahead? Join us October 20, 2020 for IFT Careers InFocus, a virtual event where expert guests, including entrepreneur Andrew Wang, will explore the future of work, virtual networking, diversity and pay inequity in the workplace, work after retirement and more. 

World Economic Forum. "5 things we know about the jobs of the future." 24 Jan. 2020.

World Economic Forum. “The 10 Skills You Need to Thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” 19 Jan. 2016.

World Economic Forum. “What is the fourth industrial revolution?" 19 Jan. 2016.

Kelly Hensel

Senior Digital Editor, IFT

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