Worldwide, organisations are undergoing fundamental changes in the way they work and will work in the future.

New laws and regulations, the flexibility of labour, the push and pull between humans and machines, and broader trends in consumer and worker sentiment will all influence the workplace of the future.

Never before have there been so many challenges and changes in the workplace, but also one that holds promise for the future. Now, more than ever, business leaders, government, policy makers, educational institutions and other stakeholders need to think about how to prepare and build the workforce of the future.

PwC has completed global research into the challenges and difficulties on the workplace of the future, and what future talent and skills are important for CEOs around the world. In that future workplace, we are looking at megatrends such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), cyber issues, social responsibility, climate change and sustainability. All these megatrends are shaping the world and our future workforce. In all of these issues, there is also a focus on the skills of the future and the need to fulfill them.

According to PwC’s annual Global CEO survey, 83% of business leaders think getting the right human skills in their organisation is the key to competing in the future.

PwC is now extending the research to include the views of leading educators, and how they can work more closely with employers to anticipate future needs and provide opportunities that prepare their students for successful careers.

To this end, PwC and Universitas 21 (U21) have come together to offer exclusive professional development opportunities for U21’s graduate students through the Innovation Challenge competition.

The online competition arises from an international collaboration between PwC and U21. U21 students respond to challenging questions about the workplace of the future and how they see themselves preparing to thrive. Their video blogs are shared with judges drawn from PwC clients, thus giving the students exposure to potential employers.

Conversely, the judges will have a unique opportunity to see the skills and talents of a pool of world-class, skilled, motivated students. The prizes include a variety of career enhancing training and coaching opportunities.

Sally Jeffery, PwC global education network leader, says: “This Innovation Challenge is linked to scenarios or the future workforce. We are interested in seeing and hearing student’s perspectives on how they see the future workforce evolving.” Jeffery is in South Africa on a business visit this week attending PwC South Africa’s 25th annual Higher Education Conference in Cape Town.

The Innovative Challenge is open to any registered graduate student in one of U21’s member universities. The first regional round, with students from Australia, India, New Zealand and China was completed in July 2018. The next group round will commence in October 2018. The final round, which will include the University of Johannesburg, a U21 institution in South Africa, will take place in January 2019.

PwC’s latest report – ‘Workforce of the future: the competing forces shaping 2030’ – examines four worlds of work in 2030, to show how competing forces, including automation, are influencing and shaping the current workforces as well as those of the future.

Each world of work scenario will have significant implications for the world of work, which includes the way in which we work, the structure of jobs as well as the skills required. These requirements need to be at the top of the agenda for governments, educational institutions, organisations and individuals.

Maura Jarvis, associate director: people and organization at PwC, says: “The shape that the workforce of the future takes will be the result of complex, changing and competing forces. Some of these forces are certain, but the speed at which they are expected to unfold is expected to be unprecedented when compared to previous changes in recent years.

“Regulations and laws, the governments that impose them, broad trends in consumer, citizen and employee sentiment will all influence the transitions toward a very different workplace. We anticipate that some roles will be replaced by automation, others augmented by automation, and new roles that require new skills will emerge. All of these will drive the need for new skills and leadership competencies.”

Jeffery adds: “PwC’s purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We believe the skills the future workforce needs are indeed one of the world’s most pressing problems. We are very proud to work with U21 and play a role in bringing together top graduates and our clients in a challenging and hopefully enjoyable problem-solving experience.