Skills of the future
How to thrive in the complex new world
Report by GEF & WorldSkills Russia
This Report is a product of a long-term cooperation between Global Education Futures and WorldSkills Russia experts.

We believe that mankind should take a serious approach towards the formation of a desired image of the future. One should not treat the future as a simple continuation of the present, as if tomorrow does not differ from the previous day.

Education and skill development is one of the most conservative areas. Sometimes training programmes remain unchanged for decades. We believe that this approach will lead us nowhere. We hope that this Report will contribute to the formation of a probable positive image of the future, which in turn will require conscious joint efforts of many actors of modern economy. Here it is summary of the report.
Complex new world
The key trends determining the image of the workplace in the 21st century

  • Digitalization of all areas of life. The amount of digitalized data is growing, the Internet is becoming more accessible, and digitalization technologies are mastering new areas of human activities;
  • Automation and robotization. Development of autonomous systems that are capable of complex physical and cognitive activities transforms the role of human labour in all sectors of the economy

  • Demographic changes. Growth of life expectancy, continuing urbanization, the growing role of women in the economy, and the changing model of childhood determine a new social landscape;
  • Formation of a network society. Emergence of new, more flexible ways of managing companies and communities is supplemented with the development of network technologies and expansion of solutions based on blockchain technology

  • Globalization (economic, technological and cultural).Value chains, consumer goods, scientific knowledge and cultural codes emerge and exist in an ultra-connected world, where the role of transnational cooperation intensifies;
  • Environmentalization.Growing consumer and manufacturer attention towards environmental wellbeing is accompanied by the transformation of the very concept of environmental friendliness and the widespread dissemination of environmental metaphors in business.


  • Acceleration. All the listed changes occur under the influence of one common meta-trend which is the increasing rate of change. This meta-trend not only influences specific changes but also sets the rate of world renovation — a rate that the majority of existing social institutions are not ready for.
It is not only the tools and and materials that are changing; the logistics are also changing. The way the production chain is being managed is undergoing a major transformation. We will see a whole new system of workplaces with new regulators and new consumers
Economy of the future
(Manufacturing sector)
Automation, digitalization and robotization will foster development of cyber-physical systems of mass production with minimal demand for human workers.

Proliferation of blockchain
technology will lead to elimination of various intermediaries in virtually every area of human activity.

Neural networks will deal with majority of routine cognitive tasks.

Human activity will be swiftly replaced by software and hardware systems in various mass services. This affects front office tasks (work with the clients) as well as back office tasks.

In the face of increasing digitalization and automation, the demand for services from which clients have real contact with a person will grow (human-oriented service).

Abundance of standardized goods will lead to more demand for customized products and the importance of handmade is increasing.

Advances in technologies will allow full scale local manufacturing.
Robotization and automation will affect all sectors of the economy
New technologies and globalised markets will allow for production of products for the mass market with a low number of human workers involved in the process.

Human labour will be in demand in customised production and services.

All workers will have to deal with cognitive tasks of higher levels.

More and more work will be associated with the ability to come up with new solutions or make one's own judgments without relying on pre-defined parameters.
New areas of economic activity
New areas of activity will emerge. Most of them will be focused on the realisation of humans' creative potential. Those jobs will require skills that were not in demand in the work related to routine physical or cognitive tasks.
History of industrialisation
In the 20th century industrialization changed society and economy around the globe.

Current transformation is similar in scale but it occurs in a more coherent and complex world.

There is a high risk of structural unemployment.

There will be sharp release of a significant number of skilled workers, whose skills are no longer in demand in the economy.
Basic skills of the 21st century
Attention management, concentration and awareness
These skills are necessary to cope with information overload and to deal with the complex technical systems

Ecological mindset
Any activity should be perceived with relations to the whole ecosystem.
Emotional intelligence
Most human jobs will require emotional input. Understanding one's own emotions, empathy, and comparisons will allow to maintain personal balance in the complex world and to interact with others.

Cross-cultural skills
People form different cultures, subcultures and generations will be working at the same workplace. Finding the way to connect with them will be essential.
Digital literacy
The ability to work in the digital world (including AR and VR) is becoming as necessary as writing and reading

(Self-) Study skills
Lifelong learning is becoming an economic imperative in the fast changing world.
The demand for creativity will be rising at the majority of workplaces as more and more routine tasks will be automated
The new model of skills
Context/domain specific
Skills that are developed and applied in a specific context. These can be professional skills (programming in a special c language), physical skills (for example, driving a car) or social skills (for example, video blogging)

Skills that can be applied in a larger domain of social or personal activities: the ability to read and write, time-management skills, teamwork skills

Existential skills
Skills that can be universally applied throughout the lifetime and in different living contexts of an individual. They include the ability to set goals and achieve them (willpower), self-awareness/self-reflection (meta-knowledge), the ability to learn/ unlearn/re-learn (self-development).

The problem we are facing cannot be solved with a simple introduction of a new set of skills or set of knowledges. The current transformation of economy and society requires us to reconsider the entire educational model.It's very easy to be different, but very difficult to be better
  • 1
    We cannot teach people to be creative by giving them standard tasks as the basis of their learning process;
  • 2
    We cannot teach people to be collaborative and work with each other by addressing them individually or by putting them in competition against each other;
  • 3
    We cannot teach people to be empathic and emotionally intelligent by removing emotion and focusing primarily on cognitive abilities;
  • 4
    We cannot teach people to develop media literacies or information hygiene if we remove information technologies from the school, including prohibition of students' personal devices;
  • 5
    We cannot teach people to live in a balanced way with biosphere if we deprive them from contacts with nature or constantly refer to nature as a "resource";
  • 6
    We cannot teach people to be mindful if we as teachers are not mindful.
Education is turning into a sophisticated ecosystem with various educational elements ranging from large hubs to small centres. This may also include online courses and forums, mobile apps and devices, augmented reality application, mass games, and many other educational formats. The new ecosystem will appear evolutionarily, without abolishing the current one, but arising out of it. This will provide existing institutions with new roles and "ecological niches."
  • 1
    In order to become an educational hub, schools and universities must step away from a traditional pattern. In particular
  • 2
    To be open to students outside standard "cohorts", in other words, to the people of any age willing to engage in diverse lifelong learning.
  • 3
    To become quite flexible to provide educational experiences of different durations (from a brief one, limited to hours or minutes, to a very long one, extended to years), different intensity (from overly high, as in live role-playing games, to low, as in contemplative meditation), using different educational styles (co-operative and competitive, cognitive and emotional, participatory and observational, practice and theory-oriented, etc.).
  • 4
    To give opportunities to many independent suppliers who can add to the variety of the educational experience and create more sophisticated educational products through exchange and co-operation.
But the new system will not be limited to transforming existing institutions. It will represent a multidimensional space satisfying a wide spectrum of an individual's educational needs throughout their lifespan.
  • Ekaterina Loshkareva
    Official Delegate, Deputy Director General for Research and Development, WorldSkills Russia
  • Pavel Luksha
    Founder Global Education Futures, Professor of Practice at Moscow School of Management Skolkovo
  • Ivan Ninenko
    Researcher at Global Education Futures
  • Ivan Smagin
    Researcher at Moscow School of Management
  • Dmitriy Sudakov
    Head of the Atlas of Emerging Jobs project
Report contains the results of a foresight cycle and expert meetings co-hosted by GEF and WS in 2014- 2017.

A considerable contribution to the success of this Report is largely attributed to the cooperation with event co-hosts, including the International Labour Organization, the BRICS Business Council, the Agency for Strategic Initiatives and the SKOLKOVO Moscow School of Management
Skills of the future
How to thrive in the complex new world
The "Future Skills" report is the first part of our research. It describes the current situation and positions the problems in the field of future challenges. It leaves reader with the question "So, what should I do?!"

And you can find answers for this question in the second part of the Report - "Educational Ecosystems For Societal Transformation":