“We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not have heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come – namely, technological unemployment.” -John Maynard Keynes (1930)
In a time in which we face an abundance of fake news, it is becoming increasingly more and more difficult to know who or what to believe anymore…
And yet, clarity, coherence and clear understanding is vital to making sure we move into the future in a more effective and relevant manner.
Especially in the face of the many changes coming at us as individuals, organizations, and even society as a whole. In a world of growing dilemmas and adaptive challenges, we have to make sure we are not only asking, but getting the questions right, if we ever want our solutions to be effective and our answers relevant.
So let’s begin by asking ourselves one of the biggest questions that is being considered in regards to the future of work…
Are the robots coming? Or not? Are we on the verge of a dystopian future brought on by a robot and automation apocalypse? Or is this just another industrial revolution that will just require a time of difficult adjustments as we reskill and upskill to the creation of new types of jobs and work? Is it just like the industrial revolution of the past? Or is it different? Very different?
Or is it a bit of both…
Especially when no one seems to agree. The economists are more inclined to the business as usual attitude and approach, while the technologists tend to land on a much more disruptive scenario that seems to catch people by surprise in the level and speed of change that is soon to be thrust upon us.
The one thing we do know, it is a concerning and hotly debated issue across all of society, as we begin to think about the future we are creating for ourselves and for our children. And no matter what side you fall on in concerning the changes we will face in the future, the one thing we can say for sure, the future is going to be different, very different.
Either way, it is something we need to be much more cognizant of and considering when we think about the future of our students and the future of education…
As the World Economic Forum shares in Accelerating Workforce Reskilling for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, “To make the most impactful investments, education ecosystem stakeholders need to better understand what skills are readily available within the adult population and where the greatest skill gaps exist. This needs to be completed with information about which skills are in greatest demand in the labor market and how to provide the appropriate reskilling pathways toward new employment opportunities.”
For which they add, “Growing awareness of technological changes associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution creates a new window of opportunity for concerted action for investing in the skills and potential of the workforce of the future for all ages. A new new deal for lifelong learning is needed globally to provide dynamic and inclusive lifelong learning systems, to resolve both the immediate challenge and to create sustainable models for the future.”
It is in our understanding and curating of our awareness of these societal shifts and technological disruptions that we can better see not only the signals that are driving us forward into this automated and artificially infused future, but determine which of those signals which will provide the greatest opportunity for meeting the future needs of our students, as well as creating ongoing and relevant change that helps education meet those needs head on, in a more efficient and effective manner.
Yet, unfortunately, the World Economic Forum adds, “Despite the growing need for adult reskilling, opportunities for broad-based and inclusive reskilling are currently not available at the appropriate levels of access, quality and scale of supply in most countries.”
To add insult to injury, “Progress has been made in the access to greater amounts of low-cost digital training across many countries; but a cohesive system which addresses the divers needs of learners, dedicates sufficient resources, and brings together the right stakeholders in providing applied learning opportunities is still lacking.”
Or as the Guardian adds in What Jobs Will Be Around In 20 Years, “Jobs won’t entirely disappear; many will simply be redefined. But people will likely lack the new skillsets required for new roles and be out of work anyway.”
What the world is telling us is that our structures and systems are not adequately prepared to provide the capacity our people need to sufficiently meet these coming changes and disruptive factors we are and will be facing, at an individual, organizational, and societal level.
Yet, even in the face of these adaptive challenges, many educators will profusely disagree that it is in the role of education and educators to prepare students for the world of work, and that the aim should be squarely focused on creating students who have a lifelong love for learning. For which I would wholeheartedly agree, except in the fact that is no longer enough for success in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.
We live in a world where continuous learning and upskilling must go hand in hand…
We live in a world where content is no longer the king and there are no extra points for being the “best rememberer” anymore. There can no longer be this divide between content and skills. It is not an either/or proposition, rather, now it is very much an AND World.
Just as the coming of automation and artificial intelligence is creating a greater need for augmentation between humans and machines, education must begin to close the chasm that lies between content and skills. Just as the world of work is now requiring more human and machine augmentation, education needs that same connection between the need for knowledge and the future ready skills and skillsets that allow for greater opportunity for success in the future.
Closing this divide will be vital, as getting students ready for automated future is going to be a very different proposition…
Inability to have a greater awareness of these shifts and what they mean for society and the future of work is effectively preparing students for a world of remediation beyond school.
As the World Economic Forum shares, “In the United States, 63% of workers have indicated having participated in job-related training in the past 12 months, yet employers are reporting the highest talent shortages since 2007.”
Even with ongoing reskilling and upskilling, workers are finding that they remain in need of skills remediation to even begin to keep pace with the shifts that are changing our world at an exponential pace.
Today’s students are walking out into a world of work that is much different than the world that many of us grew up in.
A world that is shifting and changing at an accelerated and volatile rate. A world that is seeing a constant diminishing of jobs due to the expansion of outsourcing, globalization, automation and artificial intelligence. A world of work which now sees more and more people needing to find comfortability in taskification, freelancing and the gig economy, which has become the preferred-choice for both a primary and supplementary income for over 113 million people (via McKinsey Global Institute).
Much of our past notions of the process how work looks in society is being wiped off of the societal map…
A world in which people will now have to be much more adaptive as they will most likely work 11+ jobs in their lifetime. A world of work in which the average life span of Fortune 500 companies has dropped from 75 years to 15 years or less. Leading us to seeing the need for our students to be more agile and adaptable as they will be required to move more and more, from job to job, in the face of these changes.
A world of work in which we are now able to more precisely predict the chance, as well as the percentage of a job being possibly being automated in the future, allowing us to better provide considerations and rationale towards future choices of employment and pathways to pursue. For instance, according to The Future of Employment, the chance of automation stands at the following percentage for the following jobs; 99% for telemarketer to 89% for a taxi driver, just to name a few.
It is also a time when ideas like Universal Basic Income are being actively explored by countries and companies as a possible and foreseeable safety net for a world digitally disrupted by automation, artificial intelligence, taskification, and the gig economy.
As Stanford University academic Jerry Kaplan writes in Humans Need Not Apply, “Today, automation is blind to the color of your collar. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a factory worker, a financial advisor, or a professional flute-player: automation is coming for you.”
And yet, our unwillingness or inability to become much more aware of these shifts, what these shifts may require of our students in the future, and the creation of the necessary pathways to provide them the skills to be more career and future ready, not only diminishes their window of opportunities for success in this new and changing world, but assures them that they will walk out into this world already in need of skills remediation..
More, now than ever before, we need to seek out those skills that make us both marketable and uniquely human, such as the 4Cs (creativity, collaboration, communication, critical-thinking), as well as empathy, compassion, and emotional intelligence.
Once again, it is an AND World. A world in which education needs to be considerate of the closing of the chasm between the need for both “hard” and “soft” skills.
Seeking out those future skills and skillsets, such as those provide by the Institute for the Future, the Singularity Hub, or even MITs Top Five Desirable Future Work Skills, for example:
- Judgment and Decision Making
- Fluency of Ideas
- Active Learning
- Learning Strategies
As well as including entrepreneurial skills, design and systems thinking, and leadership skillsets, will in the end, not only support our students more effectively through their educational career, it will also help them to be more career ready for an unforeseeable and very non-obvious future that they are soon too face.
The more we search out those skills that serve and support our students to move into the future more effectively, the greater emphasis we place on expanding our awareness of what our students will need for a very non-obvious future, the better prepared we will be to see how those skills can and should be infused into today’s classroom to better prepare students for tomorrows world.
“The changing nature of work will bring to the fore a societal debate about the role of people in the workplace and what it means to be career-ready. Reflecting this debate, the K-12 sector will no longer push students toward post-secondary options that might not adequately prepare them for the new world of work. Instead, education at all levels will prepare learners continually to reskill and upskill and to know how to partner constructively with machines.” -via KnowledgeWorks Redesigning Readiness