Keep learning

Recently there have been a series of articles describing how the Adidas company was bringing shoe manufacturing back to Germany (and the USA) from several developing countries. The catch to the stories was that the new manufacturing plant would be staffed almost entirely by robots. The discussion then centred on the sharp rise in the number of robots being used in advanced countries at the expense of human workers and the gradual take up of artificial intelligence agents in many areas of the workforce.

In the 18th and 19th centuries there was a dramatic change to the workforce and job roles with millions of people transitioning from rural agrarian labour to the smoke stake manufacturing of the era. With this fundamental change came rapid urbanisation and the need for support industries like transport, energy and construction. Over the past 50 years we have seen many manufacturing and related jobs moving from advanced economies to the cheap labour markets in the developing world.

Futurists are now focused on where the jobs will come in the next 50 years with even more rapid increasing in robotics and AI. These sophisticated technologies are likely to have dramatic impacts all over the economy and not just in replacement of low skilled jobs. Indeed there are few areas that are ‘safe’ from some impact by new technologies. The changes have been likened to the industrial revolution but the ‘what’ of this transition is far less clear than from farming to making things.

Perhaps the biggest challenges will be for the developing economies that have become reliant on the manufacturing jobs from the richer countries whilst in the developed economies it will challenge new workers and older workers needing to find new jobs and job skills.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom. In the 2000’s I had the great pleasure of being CEO of a remarkable technology in education corporation then known as ‘ limited’ During my tenure I was in contact with many of the world’s leading thinkers, researchers and practitioners in the use of technology in teaching and learning. A key consideration in this futures thinking was around skills for the future and what the implications were for education and training. The results of much of this work has been the identification of the skills that will be relatively robust given the burgeoning use of technologies in the workplace. I am sure you have heard the generic skills buzz words: ‘creativity’; ‘strategic risk taking’; ‘discernment’; and ‘team work’ amongst others. Indeed there has also been the development of an exciting body of work about how to effectively embed these skills in the curriculum and to identify meaningful assessment strategies. 

For students worried about their future given all this change I simply suggest you consider that the top 5 jobs of 2022 havent been invented yet! (for a good look at future possibilities on ‘162 Future Jobs’. 
Just think back over the last 10 years. New jobs that have been created include webmaster; web designer; social media analyst; digital marketer; cyber crime analyst; and, more recently, data analyst; big data ethicist; biometrician; drone legal advisor; DNA sequencing analyst and so forth. 
The key for people entering or re-entering the workforce is to be flexible, to look for opportunities, to network with peers and in your professional and, and I know I keep sounding off about this but its critical: keep on learning new things!!! Don’t rest on your degree or last job, make sure you are up with the latest and can show employers your hunger to keep learning. 

Greg Black