Key Future Skills for the water idustry

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This post is based on an editorial piece I wrote for the Q1 2016 Institute of Water Journal which was focused on current and future skills issues

I think that the two most important future skills for the water industry are Measuring the Future and Non-Traditional Recruitment. Surprised? You shouldn’t be.

It is tempting to think of future skills in terms of roles and numbers in years ahead, but I believe this approach is doomed to fail. Our world is simply too complex for any one approach to succeed. In this article I explain why.

Measuring the future

By “Measuring The Future” I mean using data modelling for role specific planning, identifying and using strong and weak signals to highlight trends, and building scenarios to identify current and emerging skills needs in a timely manner.

In my experience a good role specific modelling solution is EU Skills’ Workforce Planning Model.

By contrast AMI Enterprise Intelligence is excellent for mining of unstructured web data to uncover the strong trends and weak signals that give insight into future skills trends.

Scenario planning I see as a core skill that all aspiring and existing managers should have at their fingertips as a way of gaining insight into the skills needs of potential futures.

However, any forecast, prediction or scenario is only as good as the action that it leads to.

Backcasting provides this, asking the question “what do I need to be doing today to take best advantage of the future that I see?”.

The key point is that just because you are looking a long way in the future doesn’t mean that prioritised, costed action plans are not needed today.

Non-traditional recruitment

What do a young pay corporal from the RAF and an unemployed 54-year old electrician have in common? I appointed both as works technicians against the advice of my peers  and both went on to have great careers.

In the pay corporal I saw a man who could take 200 troops abroad for three months, get them all back home and make the books tally to the penny.

Organisational skills like that rare and he used them to great effect in the technician role.

The electrician, while unemployed, went back to college and gained two further HNCs, and at interview articulated beautifully what he could bring to the role.

He quickly became the respected father figure of the team.

What does this mean for the Water Industry?

The water industry is operating in an exponentially changing environment and needs to equip itself with the skills to understand and manage the future at all organisational levels.

Against this uncertainty are the two certainties of the falling number of young people in the population and lack of engagement with STEM subjects.

To get the future workforce that it needs the water industry will have to re-think at how it turns work into roles and jobs and look outside the traditional candidate pools.


I hope that you have enjoyed reading this post. If you have thoughts on what I have written so far please leave a comment. Also if you have an idea for another business topic let me know and I’ll be delighted to find a space for it.

Thanks again

Bob windmill

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