Updated: Jul 25, 2020
(Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash)
What foundational skills will today's 5 year olds need as they enter the workforce in 2030? How are workers and organisations preparing for the effects of automation on their jobs? How can education systems be reformed, and which voices are the most influential?
At The Future Learning Project we read and think a lot about the world, how it's changing and what the future of learning might look like. We strive to be curious about how exponential technologies and disruptive innovation are transforming how we work, and what new skills and competencies will be essential to thrive. This week's focus is:
1. How the demands of work are changing with automation, and what skills are becoming essential.
2. How some workers' unions are recognising the transformative effects of automation, and taking action to protect their workers.
3. Why Russia is a classic example of the battle in education between reformers and traditionalists.
From McKinsey Global Institute, research examining the effects of exponential technologies and disruptive innovation on the workforce of tomorrow. Four key questions addressed within the research are:
1. How will demand for workforce skills change with automation? 2. What are shifting skill requirements in five industry sectors (manufacturing, banking, retail, energy and healthcare)? 3. How will organisations adapt? 4. How will we build the workforce of the future?
The research notes a likely decline routine manual and cognitive work performed, with an increased demand for workers with social-emotional and technological skills - this aligns with research we have seen from the World Economic Forum (WEC). Each sector faces significant structural changes, for example more complex data and customer management within banking, growth of care for the elderly in healthcare, and automation of manufacturing. As more retail moves online, supply chain and inventory management is becoming more automated, and future opportunities lie in customer services and technology deployment and maintenance.
Organisationally, companies will need to instil a culture of life-long learning, and adopt a team-based, agile approach to work. As we have also seen in earlier posts, the number of contractors will also rise. In building their workforces, companies will likely need to focus on staff: retraining and/or redeploying them, hiring them, contracting out work, and letting people with redundant skills go.
So what are the implications for learning? From a higher education perspective, few respondents and companies in the research identify higher education providers as being potential partners in developing the workforce of tomorrow. Schools are not mentioned, but learning is, and according to this research 'skills' are the focus and the challenge.
Understanding the importance of life-long learning and developing skills and competencies such as collaboration and an ability to function sensitively and effectively in any context develops over a period of time, and needs to be practised. Today's 5 year olds starting school will be entering the workforce in 2030, and we need to think seriously about the skills and competencies workers needs, and how learners will develop them throughout their schooling.
We may see more of this in coming years - workers striking due to fears of their jobs being replaced by automation. Although its still early days, food workers' unions are concerned about the growing use of food service robots, some capable of making 400 custom burgers to order hourly. Unions do not appear to be against the idea of technology and innovations that create and improve jobs, just as long as there are net gains for workers.
It's a good idea for unions to start negotiations before automation becomes commonplace, as they are more likely to be negotiating from a position of strength. They are aware of issues surrounding the rise of exponential technologies and disruptive innovation, preparing as a result, and will hopefully achieve good outcomes for their people.
What about teachers and schools? Are they aware of what's happening and adjusting their practices? Are families and students informed about how work is likely to change?
The World Economic Forum shares a report from the McKinsey Global Institute about the changing nature of work and the 3 key skill sets for the workers of 2030.
Again, as we have seen in previous posts and research, jobs requiring routine physical and cognitive skills will decline as they are automated, and the demand for higher-order thinking, social and emotional skills and technical know-how will increase.
Today's 5 year olds will be 18 and about to enter the workforce in 2030 - will the education they receive develop the competencies needed to thrive in the new era of work? If not, how do we get things to change? Where does the impetus need to come from?
Russia is emerging as a key battleground between educational reformists and traditionalists. With President Putin promising education reform in which Russia's schools are globally competitive yet rooted in traditional spiritual and moral values, battle lines are being drawn for influence in policy creation and within ministries. Modernists are looking globally for inspiration, with student-centred, project-based learning among approaches being considered, and they see these approaches as being key to breaking Russia's low performance in educational attainment and performance. However, the current minister for education and science favours a return to the best of the Soviet method, with an emphasis on memorisation of literary classics and teacher-led instruction.
This conversation is relevant globally, with policy makers and influencers seeking both seeking solace in the past and looking to the future. Given the competencies that will likely be required for learners and workers based on research and data we are seeing at the Future Learning Project, our support is with the reformists, and reform can't come soon enough for Russia's students.
Thank you for joining us this week. Please don't forget to comment on our articles and posts - we want to share ideas, critical thought and constructive feedback.