How engineers are preparing for their industry to change dramatically

Autonomous cars. Intelligent robots. Ubiquitous supercomputing. The evidence of technological change is happening at an aggressive pace.

The future of work is being shaped by a range of new technologies that are blending the digital and physical world, impacting every industry, changing how tasks are done and shifting the skills equation. The resulting disruptions mean we are entering an era of great promise, with the ability to dramatically improve the efficiency of individuals and organizations, and unearth a bevy of new fields of study and employment – particularly for software developers and engineers.

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As we celebrate National Engineers Week, we look ahead with great promise on where the future of work is heading. Remarkable technical breakthroughs will position engineers at the epicenter of change and innovation.

Remarkable technologies altering the employment landscape

A prominent feature in science fiction over the past few decades has been artificial intelligence. Movies from the 1990’s to today depict a future society of intelligent machines present among humans, like Sonny in I, Robot and Optimus Prime in Transformers. One thing these fictional characters all have in common is the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

Today, organizations are embracing digital transformation powered by AI, harnessing big data, natural language processing and the Internet of Things (IoT) to transform their businesses and better serve customers and employees. Not only will these extraordinary technologies streamline our everyday routines, but they will also significantly disrupt the employment landscape.

The emergence of new jobs in the world of AI and robotics

The emergence of new technology often has a positive impact on the economy and creates new jobs. Careers such as social media manager, drone operator and app developer didn’t exist until recently; and today, millions of workers across the globe hold such positions. Accenture estimates that AI could boost labor productivity by up to 40% and double the economic growth rate by 2033. Additionally, PwC, predicts that professional, scientific and technical services will see a 16% net increase.

As we approach the golden age of machine learning and AI, it’s clear that many jobs in 2020 and beyond will be in fields that didn’t exist just a decade ago. For instance, an augmented reality developer and autonomous transportation specialist are just a few specially skilled careers that are starting to emerge and will soon be in high demand to fill. New roles may also include data detective, master of edge computing, AI business development manager, cyber city analyst, and the list goes on.

Developing tomorrow’s engineers

Despite many of today’s alarming headlines inflating concerns over humans losing their jobs to machines, computers simply cannot perform many fundamental, human-oriented tasks involving judgement for problem- solving. It will be a very long time, if ever, that computers are capable of flexible thinking and reasoning, an area coined Artificial General Intelligence (AGI).

It’s likely that the fourth industrial revolution will favor individuals that can marry strong digital skills with softer skills like empathy and teamwork, which machines are challenged to replicate. Further, as AI and other innovative digital technologies mature, engineers will be part of its development and work alongside the technology.

As working with robots becomes commonplace in every industry and workplace, tomorrow’s engineers will need to hone their hard and soft skills. A recent report from McKinsey shows that companies are responding by teaching these skills. Educational institutions must also prepare students for the new types of positions as technological advances continue. Preparing tomorrow’s workforce to have a healthy blend of technical and social skills will be key to creating a well-rounded, agile workplace in the age of AI.

The world of work faces an epochal transition. As we mark National Engineers Week, there’s never been a more important time to uncover the new disruptive technologies that are reshaping the way we live and work as engineers will be at the center of this transition in the impending fourth industrial revolution.

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