Updated: Jul 25, 2020
Photo by elCarito on Unsplash
Welcome to The Future Learning Project, where we examine and discuss articles and trends at the intersection of learning, exponential technologies and disruptive innovation.
This week we start with two articles via The Exponential View about how worker shortages are forcing the adoption of robots in some industries. The first example is from Hungary, where worker shortages are automating production lines and generating new business. The challenge is now that the workers needed on these new lines need to be highly skilled, and there is also a shortage of them, to the point where further business and opportunities to automate are being turned away. These jobs are well paid, and the opportunities are available to those who understand these trends, then position, prepare and train for the work.
The second example is from the United States, in which robotic dairy farming units are replacing workers, again due to labour shortages. For the moment, it's only cost-effective for units of a certain size, and although these farms have fewer jobs total positions available, the ones that do exist are more technical and better paid. This trend will likely continue globally, and again these jobs exist but there is a shortage of qualified people - being a low-skilled farm hand is no longer enough for dairy work.
Yes, jobs are being lost, but there are opportunities for highly-skilled and paid work for those who are trained and prepared. Traditional academic pathways may not be the solution to filling these positions, but rather skill-specific training on an as-needed basis. How well are our schools preparing students for this new, emerging reality of business and work?
More from The World Economic Forum next, with further analysis of a report previously posted from Boston Consulting Group. It's yet another repeat of a consistent message, quoted here:
"The global labour market will experience rapid change over the next decade. The reason: more jobs becoming automated as technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics take over the workplace.
Workers will have to adapt quickly, rushing to acquire a broad new set of skills that will help them survive a fast-changing job market, such as problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity, as well as developing a habit of lifelong learning."
The report identifies transition opportunities for workers as jobs are lost, and thankfully jobs most at risk of automation also have the most transition opportunities, provided that workers have the skills.
Problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity and a habit of life-long learning - are our schools and education systems in their present form structured to deliver this? Today's 10 year olds will be 22 in the year 2030 - has the way these 10 year olds are learning fundamentally changed in the last 50 years? If not, what change needs to be made?
Our final article today comes from Bangladesh, with news that 80% of garment workers could lose their jobs to automation within the next 15 years. Bangladesh is a global centre of garment production, and to say that the loss of most of a major national workforce might cause some social and economic challenges is an understatement. It's a story that's familiar to us here at The Future Learning Project - with retraining and new jobs available for some, questions are being asked about what opportunities less skilled workers will have.
The garment market is expanding globally, and to compete Bangladesh must increase productivity through automation. Details on how to manage this transition are sketchy but one commentator states that “Higher productivity begins with the training of workers. The factory owners will have to think the workers are important for them,” he said. “The real problem in Bangladesh is that workers are not properly valued in the garment sector.”
There may be an opportunity to generate wealth and prosperity, up-skill workers and value their contributions, and that will come through learning about and for the future.
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