A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) points to the need for more workforce training on “soft skills” to fill jobs that are less likely to disappear due to tech-driven automation.

In preparing its conclusions, GAO reviewed a range of data on skills that it believes are needed for jobs that will be in high demand over the next decade – even as automation increasingly takes over a share of tasks usually performed by people.

In its report, GAO says that workforce training programs should focus on skills needed for in-demand jobs – including critical thinking and soft skills like social interaction – as jobs that demand those skill sets may be less likely to be automated.

“Department of Labor (DOL) data show that in-demand jobs require a mix of skills, including soft skills and process skills that help a person acquire knowledge quickly, such as active learning and critical thinking,” wrote GAO. “Federal data also indicate that in-demand jobs having a higher number of skills deemed important also tend to require higher levels of education.”

GAO notes that state and other data can help inform which skills are most important for in-demand jobs in a given geographic area. DOL and the Department of Commerce are working to gather additional data on skills in light of the tech-driven automation trend.

Stakeholders in workforce training programs proposed strategies that include:

  1. Focus training content on in-demand skills;
  2. Design programs to maximize accessibility;
  3. Increase investment in training; and
  4. Collaborate with other workforce stakeholders to serve workers displaced by automation.

“Historically, new technologies have enhanced productivity and improved societal standards of living. Many workplace technologies have been designed to save labor through automation,” wrote GAO. “However, as automation has replaced tasks performed by some types of workers, it has also created a greater demand for other types of workers.”

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.