The Future Of Work, Education, and Employment?

The future of work is on its way. The World Economic Forum have said that by 2020 more than a third of the core skills required for a job will be those that are not considered crucial today. These skills will include a greater focus on social and collaborative skills alongside technical know-how. Emotional intelligence and the ability to influence and teach others have both been identified and important future work skills. Added to this are the technological advances with the potential impact of robotics and artificial intelligence yet to be fully understood. The future also looks set to see employees facing a need for frequent retraining as new technology arrives. But what does this mean for the future of career training and education?

There looks to be an interesting dilemma facing education and career development in the near future, with some pointing out that classroom-based, test-driven learning may soon become less desirable than on-the-job learning. This change is starting to be seen with the push for more apprenticeships in the UK (raising to 3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020). Indeed, it is estimated that only 10% of job-related learning comes from formal education, which surely means an increasing reliance on vocational routes such as apprenticeships to train the employees of the future.

Apprenticeships are already showing that they are a real growth area for employment and training, with a wide variety of industries now looking at apprenticeships as a great source of new talent.

Meanwhile, the Harvard Business School has argued that higher education will change to allow greater use of the internet (such as with online learning and ‘nano-courses’) while also tying education closely to real workplace skills – with an emphasis on competence over subjects. Distance learning already offers a hint of what the future of academia could look like with the potential for lectures to be delivered online, offering students around the world equal access to the best teachers.

The World Economic Forum also declared that "65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately find themselves working in jobs that don't yet exist." This is quite an amazing assertion, but also opens up questions about how you go about training young people for jobs that may not even exist yet!

It is critical that business and government work to spot potential skills gaps and start preparations to fill them. If done successfully, this will reduce the number of young people who are unemployed while also (hopefully) better preparing people for real jobs rather than hypothetical ones.

This effect can already be seen in the UK’s current push to fill a skills shortage in engineering. The Department of Education are working to encourage more interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects at school. There is a particular push right now to encourage more women into the tech industry, for example.

It is also believed that subject-based focus in school will be supplemented by other learning which build creativity and other desirable core skills for the future workplace.

As far employment is concerned, businesses are already looking towards employees who have the skills they need, and are willing to offer relevant training through apprenticeships and other instruction. Joining education with the needs of employers and developing talent across a variety of job sectors seems key.

As some experts begin to talk of us being on the verge of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is time to recognise the importance of future-proof skills and education that mean young people are ready for the world of tomorrow, and not the one of yesterday.

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