Anja's overflow

The future of work and qualifications

As I work through the latest Future of Work Report from the World Economic Forum (WEF), one aspect in particular jumps out at me:

Cooperation with Coursera

In cooperation with Coursera, the largest online course platform in western climes, the WEF works out that the learning activities of (intrinsically motivated) learners are not really identical with the needs of companies.

Individual learners on Coursera have focused primarily on building technical skills such as programming, resource management and operations, networks and cybersecurity, and design and user experience (see Figure 4.1).

Supply and demand for skills

These choices sometimes align with the skills companies are looking for, according to responses to the Future of Jobs survey – and many of these skills are fundamental to achieving higher levels of competency in in-demand areas like AI and Big Data, as well as leadership and social influence. Similarly, individual learners emphasize reading, writing, and math, which are rarely the explicit focus of organizations but are nonetheless important basic skills for any career. However, mismatches still exist, and job seekers can use online learning platforms more effectively to fill skills gaps and meet employer demands, especially as traditional skills become less important (sic!).

In the past, individuals on the Coursera platform have primarily developed technical or “hard” skills associated with lucrative careers in programming and data analytics. Increasingly, however, emerging technologies such as generative AI are changing workforce requirements, and employers are placing more emphasis on “soft” skills (see Figure 4.8).

Sectoral priorities for "soft" skills

These capabilities enable companies to respond to change and are resistant to automation. Early indications are that the supply side of the market is balancing out, with socio-emotional skills steadily increasing their share of learning hours from 2017 to 2023, with the exception of a brief upswing toward technical skills during the 2020 global closures.

WEF: The Future of Jobs Report 2023

Soft skills – quo vadis?

Now, the WEF classically always looks at developments from the point of view of companies and their needs for skilled workers, but in fact they hit a nail on the head if you are also looking for employment in the near future or want to further qualify yourself according to current needs.

The big question, then, is how to acquire the necessary soft skills and find the motivation within oneself to develop one’s character accordingly. Let’s take a look at the top 10 skills declared in the report that will be needed in the next 5 years:

Skills on the rise

This reads quite conclusively, but from my perspective, two factors in particular from the top 10 are basic prerequisites for getting into action at all:

  1. Curiosity and lifelong learning
  2. Motivation and self-awareness

If these two personality traits are not sufficiently pronounced, the step to the other skills will hardly be manageable.

The Women in Tech MOOC

One of the ways we are currently working on this is with our Women in Tech MOOC. In it, we fan out along ten women a kaleidoscope of different life/learning paths, all of whom somehow ended up in the tech sector in the broadest sense. Whatever tech sector means these days. To that end, I’m holding a very short Lightning Talk on Wednesday that you can attend live.

Working in the tech sector

The longer I think about the tech sector and the diverse needs to actively shape the great digital-green transformation, the more it becomes apparent to me that actually all industries are becoming tech industries. There will be no area beyond tech in the future. Or, as the Federal Minister of Labor recently put it:

From 2035, there will no longer be a job that has nothing to do with AI

Hubert Heil

Now this might worry some that they can’t keep up with developments. But these seem to be “intrinsically” unfounded. Because contrary to the long-held overweening suspicion that online courses reinforce the Matthew Effect …

The Matthew Effect is a thesis in sociology about success. Where this effect occurs, current successes arise more from past successes and less from current accomplishments.


… Translated to “the education”: The higher the already existing qualification, the more successful people can be in the online learning world. This mantra, which for years was considered common sense in the education scene, is not borne out by Coursera’s numbers. Even people without a higher formal education can continue their education on the platform with a comparable investment of time.

Formal education does not affect the time taken to acquire online skill credentials

In this respect, everyone can take heart here. The platforms seem to support all interested parties quite well. And with AI chatbots, this is getting better and better. You “just” have to be motivated enough to get going. In whatever direction. We have enough urgent needs in the next few years.

Expected impact of macrotrends on jobs, 2023-2027

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