Updated: Jul 25, 2020
As we conduct our research into trends related to the future of work, business and learning, a common theme that we encounter is the importance of continuous learning and retraining either following or in anticipation of industry decline. Our first article highlights some of the challenges that need to be overcome if this is going to happen, with coal mining in America being the example here. Despite the promises of politicians, coal mining is an industry in decline. Therefore, federally-funded retraining programmes are available to former miners so that they can transition to different industries that are experiencing shortages.
The problem is that the uptake of these programmes is extremely low, partly because the miners have been promised their jobs back, and also because mining appears to be such a strong part of the local and regional identity that resistance to doing something different is deeply ingrained. This has knock-on effects, with examples noted being the reluctance of major companies to establish plants and distribution centres in areas in which retraining levels are low, thereby compounding the problem.
In such a politically-charged environment, how can we encourage communities to understand what's happening and take action to address the problem? How can children be taught so that they do not fall into the same trap? Critical thinking and problem solving scenarios and strategies? Is this how students are currently taught?
A sobering read from John Mauldin is next, with a discussion about the massive transformation in work to come over the next two decades that he has uncovered, and the extent of the disruption that this will have on jobs. The short answer to this is that productivity will increase massively, but jobs will decrease. We already see it in mining, oil and gas and manufacturing, and it will accelerate. Automation of driving and electric vehicles? Massive job losses along with income from fuel taxes. Cancer cured? That would be fantastic, but also result in huge job losses for those in healthcare specialising in caring for cancer patients, at least until those healthcare jobs are redistributed elsewhere due to the ageing population.
Mauldin references disruption in several forms of work and their knock-on effects, along with the current climate of negative political discourse, but there is some light. Millions of new jobs will be created, many higher-paying and safer than those now. But will they be enough?
Will they be reserved for those who are educated or willing enough to learn, unlearn and relearn? How about those with a more fixed mindset or who for various reasons are entrenched in industries in decline? What does this mean for inequality? What should our students learn? How should they learn?
To finish this week, we have a long, wide-ranging and fascinating piece from bain.com via The Exponential View. It examines the coming collision between demographics (an ageing population), automation increasing productivity and reducing jobs, and inequality creating an erosion of the middle class, heading towards the year 2030. The article describes a 'major transformation' as a result of this collision, with a likely adjustment of the government's role in business and society. A lot's going to happen.
Today's 10 year olds will be 22 years old in the year 2030. They will be entering a work, social and political landscape that may bear little resemblance to what currently exists. Are our education systems preparing them for it? What knowledge, skills and attitudes will our students need?
It's likely that they will need to learn and relearn frequently, and understand that learning will truly be a life-long process. The learned, thoughtful and informed inquirers will have the job security, the business opportunities, opportunities to live comfortably and live longer. While this has always been true to a degree, it's rapidly becoming an imperative, with the price for not having the necessary skills about to come sharply into focus. Unless we do something about it.
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