People have always wanted to know their future — from astrology and Tarot cards to modern futurology have been providing them with more ideas about the future and changes it will bring to us, our families and the mankind. We can, of course, sit cozily on a sofa and reread old Sci-Fi books and keep fantasizing about the future which will never be true — or we can study the current trends and try to get ready to what is coming and prepare ourselves and, above all, our children to their adult lives in the changed world.
The most obvious fact about the future is that technology will dominate both our everyday life and market. McKinsey Global Institute estimates, for example, that by 2030, artificial intelligence will have displaced up to one fifth of the global workforce. At the same time, new technology will create new jobs, but what will they be like and what skills will be necessary for our children and for us?
Labor Market Trends
As stated in the WEF Future of Jobs Report 2018, technological breakthroughs change the frontier between the human jobs and automated machine tasks, global labor markets are undergoing massive transformations, and people are largely unprepared to them.
1. Technology will advance rapidly in several directions: AI, Big Data, Cloud and high-speed mobile internet.
2. The frontier between humans and machines tasks will shift significantly: in the past year 71% of total task hours were performed by humans, and only 29% by machines. Even in five years, the ratio is expected to be 58% vs. 42%.
3. The spreading of new technologies will shift the core skills required to perform a job. The Future of Jobs Report estimates that by 2022, no less than 54% of employees will require re- and upskilling.
4. The geography of production, distribution and value chains will change in response to the changes in the task distributions. Even now, the necessity of skilled local talent is considered to be more critical than the labor costs (74% vs. 64% of respondents).
Not surprising, the jobs landscape will change as well with roles based on and enhanced by the use of technology, such as AI and ML Specialists, Big Data Specialists, Process Automation Experts, Robotics Engineers, Blockchain Specialists or already established roles such as Data Analysts and Scientists, and Software and Applications Developers. Besides, to counter the growth of robotics, the market will need more distinct ‘human’ skills, expanding the need for Sales and Marketing Professionals, Training and Development, People and Culture, and Organizational Development Specialists and Innovation Managers.
It is evident, that companies will have to manage the skill gaps resulting from the adoption of new technologies by sifting to almost complete automation, hiring new staff or retraining existing personnel (or hoping that they will eventually pick up the necessary skills themselves). It is believed that the likelihood of hiring new staff with relevant skills is nearly twice the likelihood of strategic redundancies of staff lagging behind in new skills adoption, so maintaining the knowledge at the acceptable level or even thinking ahead of new demands becomes a vital skill.
How we should respond?
What is evident now is that the days of a lifetime job, and of a single curriculum and training that fits for that job, are gone for good. Both children and adults will have to study for their whole life being always ready to embrace new trends and develop new skills. In this lifestyle, it is important to be equipped with foundational skills that will stand you in good stead regardless of a specific job.
Probably, in these settings, the flexibility and the readiness for change become the critical skills to be developed from the early age. We can’t know for sure what skills will be required for the future, but what we can be ready for them. When technologies change fast, we can spare our children’s time in learning current trends, but give them a broader and a more stable perspective on the evolution of the world around them.
The four C’s
In his book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari argues that the general-purpose skills should dominate schooling and children should be taught critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity rather than technical skills and rigid disciplines. Only in this way they will be able to learn new things and preserve their mental health in unfamiliar situations as well as to fit the emerging demand for “human” skills in industry. In our article, How to Build Data Culture and Make Data Your Friend, we state that critical thinking is the basis for building data-driving teams — now and in future.
Despite the focus on general education, it is impossible to ignore the utmost need for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills that are needed to fuel the 4th Industrial Revolution. The curricula in these disciplines are developed in collaboration with industry experts, giving young people a clear and straightforward path into STEM careers and giving professionals ways to upskill with respect to the demands of their industry.
One of the most difficult and important tasks of education is to foster the required specialists without creating skills gaps in other areas. Growing the STEM workforce, for instance, must not be done at the expense of creativity, social skills and collaborative problem-solving, the abilities that resist automation and therefore will be valued for decades to come. On the other hand, limiting education to soft skills will end up in the lack of scientists and engineers needed to build the new economy.
For all mammals, not speaking about humans, learning through play is vital, and digital technology can support us in this. There are multiple efforts to gamify the process of learning to gain foundational skills in an enjoyable way. Eben Upton, Raspberry Pi’s CEO names such skills as numeracy, literacy and critical thinking that are integral for future education and can be tackled by teaching children basic computer science in the games format. Far beyond simple coding for kids, this approach is intended to prepare everyone, independent on their age, for a more digital, more automated world. Gamification is enjoyable but it also offers a glimpse on how to combine the capabilities of people and machines, automate repetitive tasks and free our time to more creative aspects.
All in all, we are on the verge of the 4th Industrial Revolution, and it has huge potential to boost economic growth and raise living standards. But first of all, we should prepare ourselves to view it as an opportunity and not a threat, so we need to get serious about education and skills both for the current workforce and future generations.