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Robots displacing jobs means 120 million workers need retraining

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An estimated 50.3 million Chinese workers may require retraining as a result of intelligent automation over the next three years, according to the IBM study.

New York

MORE than 120 million workers globally will need retraining in the next three years due to artificial intelligence's (AI's) impact on jobs, according to an IBM survey.

That's a top concern for many employers who say talent shortage is one of the greatest threats to their organisations today. And the training required these days is longer than it used to be - workers need 36 days of training to close a skills gap versus three days in 2014, IBM notes in the survey.

Some skills take longer to develop because they are either more behavioural in nature like teamwork and communication or highly technical, such as data science capabilities.

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"Reskilling for technical skills is typically driven by structured education with a defined objective with a clear start and end," Amy Wright, IBM managing director for talent, wrote in an email. "Building behavioural skills takes more time and is more complex."

Behavioural skills, such as the ability to work well in a team, communication, creativity, and empathy are best developed through experience rather than structured learning programmes as in a webinar.

When employers say they're facing a skills shortage, the first thing that comes to mind is coding experience or another advanced technical skill set.

Yet, today, employers are calling for more emphasis on soft skills - communication skills, ethics and creativity - rather than technical, a switch over the last few years, the survey notes. Behavioural skills are now seen as critical from digital and technical capabilities. Advancements in AI are expected to not only displace jobs but also create new ones.

The challenge will be upskilling workers to fill the new jobs. Several ways to close the skills gap include hiring talent from other countries, from outside the organisation and moving employees across divisions, says IBM.

An estimated 50.3 million Chinese workers may require retraining as a result of intelligent automation over the next three years, according to the IBM study. China is followed by 11.5 million in America and 7.2 million in Brazil. Japan and Germany round out the top five countries with 4.9 million and 2.9 million workers, respectively. BLOOMBERG