By Russell Borthwick

Whether we understand it and like it or not, we are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, representing a fundamental change in the way we live, work and relate to one another. The difference between this and the previous three is not just the incredible pace of technological development but also its frightening and seemingly almost unlimited capability.

‘Humans are being replaced by machines; the end of the world is nigh’. Well, not necessarily.

Yes, robots and artificial intelligence will become the default solution for many tasks. Just as manufacturing of goods moved from artisans in small shops and homes to steam powered machines in large factories; and innovative farming equipment replaced people and horses in our fields in the 1700s and 1800s.

However, as was the case then, in the wake of these changes, humans will be needed to create and deliver value in brand new ways for brand new business models.

One report suggests that 85% of job roles in 2030 are currently unknown to us and could include augmented-reality journey builders, biofilm installers, makeshift structure engineers, rewilders, digital currency advisors and drone traffic optimisers.

People may need to learn the skill of gaining new knowledge at speed, becoming familiar with new technologies almost, dare I say, at the touch of a button.

Of course we still need, and in greater numbers, actual people in the fields of health and social care, education, science and advanced engineering to name just a few - as well as human beings who can make sure the machines are doing what they are meant to.

And as we morph ourselves from being Europe’s oil and gas capital to a global leader in energy transition, building on the unrivalled skills and technologies developed here in the North Sea, we will need to convince a whole new generation that it’s both socially acceptable and professionally secure and rewarding to pursue a career in this field.

Although the 85% figure feels a little unlikely, it serves to make an important point. How can we nurture the future talent we need to power our economy if we don’t know what they’ll need to know? Perhaps therein lies the opportunity.

Talent is defined as natural aptitude or skill. Maybe the future is less about subject-specific knowledge or manual dexterity and more about things like originality, fluency of creative ideas, adaptability, judgment, social intelligence, decision-making and self-management ability. So are these not the things that should form the core part of our curriculums and degree courses? And in an increasingly dynamic environment, we must encourage and support an active approach to lifelong learning.

Don’t ask our young people: ‘what do you want to be?’ but instead, ‘what do you want to change?’ reflecting the increasing trend towards social conscience and wanting to do good; to make a difference.

The North-east of Scotland was recently rated as the best place in the UK to start a business based on start-up and five year survival rates. We must continue to leverage our leading entrepreneurialism eco-system supported by our universities and others aligned with our growth sectors.

Finally, if we are to succeed in delivering our economic vision, we need to retain our home-grown talent providing young people across the city region with the motivation to want to be part of our renaissance region story; at the same time attracting the very best to want to come here to study, work and live. Central to this is getting all of us to continue to share sharing quality of work/life balance offered right here in Aberdeen.

Russell Borthwick is chief executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce.