Designing your future

Reflecting on critical skills and how to build them

8 September 2021

Rose Heathcote

As one disruption after the next takes hold, we observe companies shifting into transformation-overdrive. They’re adapting their strategies and business models to deal with the demands from global crises, customers, competitors, governments and communities. There will always be a catalyst for learning and improvement in organisations and ourselves. There will always be a reason to sharpen employee skills as the landscape alters and new problems present.

“…we estimate that by 2025, 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines, while 97 million new roles may emerge…”

– World Economic Forum The Future of Jobs Report, 2020, p. 29

We expect a steady flow of predictable, known problems to occupy us day-to-day but we’re also faced with unpredictable, unknown waters to navigate. Couple this with technological advancement as some jobs decline and others emerge, spurring on cycles of reskilling and upskilling of labour. This scenario requires future-fit skills to take centre stage. To design your future, think about mitigating these risks and pivoting to seize new opportunities. How will you develop yourself for the transition? If you’re in a leadership role, how will you develop yourself to lead the transition?

Reflect and adjust

Periodically we all need to pause, reflect and decide how we will adjust our learning paths for the future. As the future unfolds, what worked yesterday and today may not be enough for tomorrow.  The World Economic Forum reports fascinating insights into the future of work1. In the report, they illustrate a forward-view of the critical skills helping us orient as we sketch a dynamic blueprint for lifelong learning. They also discuss the top skills of tomorrow and how long it will take to learn them2:

  • 50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025, as adoption of technology increases, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving top the list of skills employers believe will grow in prominence in the next five years.
  • Newly emerging this year are skills in self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.
  • Respondents to the Future of Jobs Survey estimate that around 40% of workers will require reskilling of six months or less.

Although each point is worthy of your attention, my Lean background draws me to critical thinking, problem-solving and active learning–intrinsic elements to any transformation. As educators, we dedicate ourselves to building the people that build the organisations into customer-satisfying, prosperous, resilient, job-creating organisations. Our challenge is to recognise the future skills needed for companies to survive and thrive and to bring these into our programmes. It’s exciting to share cutting-edge insights on critical topics such as digital transformation, developments in supply chain excellence and sustainability, equipping students with what they need for the challenges ahead. Think about your future: what skill gaps do you wish to close? How will you achieve it?

Think long-term

The future of learning is not about having standard answers for standard problems. It is about developing the critical thinking skills and confidence to frame and face challenges as they arise and then to execute good decisions based on sound judgments. These skills take time and patience to nurture. We foster our students in these skills, helping them to analyse, synthesise and critically evaluate information and situations so that they may adapt and apply concepts to real-world settings. Programmes, such as our freshly-redesigned MSc and PGDip Lean Leadership and Professional Doctorate in Operational Excellence equip you for this purpose, addressing the critical skills highlighted in The Future of Jobs Report. At The University of Buckingham, we prepare learners to lead change effectively and sustainably from their position of influence. If you have a long-term vision and blueprint for personal development in these skills, you will benefit from this intensive yet practical experience.

Pivot short-term

With a growing demand for capability development and upskilling where you can learn in shorter cycles and apply new ideas in real-time, a blueprint for short courses may be better for you. Not all learners enjoy the luxury of available budget and time to commit to long-term programmes and may even self-fund their development. Our response to this is to provide exceptional, shorter experiences, offering micro-credentials to validate the learning journey.

Help us to understand what you need by taking this quick survey. We’re listening.

Continue your education

Whichever route you choose, you have an opportunity to set yourself up to succeed in a post-pandemic world. Structure your lifelong learning journey with forward-thinking education from The University of Buckingham. We’re here to help you.


1 World Economic Forum The Future of Jobs Report 2020. Available at:  (Accessed: 6 September 2021)

2 Whiting, K. (2020) These are the top 10 job skills of tomorrow – and how long it takes to learn them. World Economic Forum. Available at: (Accessed: 2 September 2021)