We’ve all heard the phrase ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ as being negatively associated with the workforce. But how true does this ring in ICT?

A deep-dive project was undertaken by ACS to explore some of the emerging skills development needs employers were looking to recruit, as a continuation from the findings in the Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce report that was completed by CSIRO/Data 61 in partnership with The Department of Employment, ANZ Bank, Boston Consulting Group and ACS.

This 12-month project interviewed a range of employers and recruiters from across the tech sector, finding that employees with soft skills such as people and interpersonal skills are increasingly in higher demand -- surpassing even the demand for those with high-level technical skills.

While this should be no surprise, another key finding from this project was that with coming of the Artificial Intelligence Revolution, where jobs most in demand will be related to AI, ICT businesses are recruiting employers with general technology and strong people skills.

“Technical experts can be found, but few have the requisite human skills,” the report found.

Despite the future transition to AI, strong people skills are imperative to keep this industry afloat. ICT professionals are required to use their people skills to deal with customers, work on agile projects, and determine how to use AI to further their business.

“Higher conceptual and social capabilities will remain immune to AI for the longest period of time,” stated the report.

AI is seen as the vehicle of innovation, but people with a combination of soft and technical skills are the future drivers.

As one interviewee responded to the survey, “Send us candidates with good people skills – we can teach the technical.”

This does not mean that the need for technical skills has diminished. Organisations hire employees with good technical skills, and a broader range of skills that are malleable enough to be honed with internal training.

The report stated organisations should strive to train employees with a strong focus on the development of people skills, in particular people with post-graduate degrees who also have technical skills.

“ACS has a responsibility to develop people-skills focussed programmes to help overcome the limitations in technical professionals,” it said. The intended outcome of this project was to identify opportunities for professional development using evidence based research through industry consultation.

Australia lagging in the digital divide

Up until 2015, many jobs seemed like a scientific fantasy, yet as characteristic of the fast pace that ICT evolves, these jobs are here and in high demand, particularly in analytics.

However, according to the report, the Australian workforce is lacking suitable candidates. Many recruiters reported having to source talent from outside the country, as they struggle to find people with the emerging skills necessary to keep up with the Artificial Intelligence revolution.

Being a jack of all trades might just be better than being a master of one.

This report was compiled as part of a project established by ACS’ Professional Development Board to act upon the findings from the “Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce” report.