The modern workplace is a far different place than it was a few decades ago. As technological changes continue and the pace of such change quickens, we can expect an even more dramatic shift in the look of the work world of the future.
So what does that mean for young people today? What will their job and career options look like in the future?
That’s hard to say. Analysts can make projections but there are so many varied factors that drive how society and the work world are shaped that it’s difficult to look very far into the future with any degree of certainty. One thing we do know is that changes will happen.
In his Eye on Education column in The Herald, Holy Spirit Superintendent Chris Smeaton quoted a statistic from the World Economic Forum which was shared by Sarah Prevette, founder and CEO of Future Design School: “65 per cent of children currently entering primary school will have jobs that don’t exist yet.”
Smeaton noted that should serve as a challenge for educators to examine if the education system is “equipping our students with the right tools for that unknown workplace.”
In fact, it’s a challenge for everyone. “Digitalist Magazine,” in an article titled “The Future Of Work: How The Workplace Is Changing In 2017” by Shelly Kramer, says, “Technology is rapidly transforming the workplace. Some changes will create dramatic shifts in the long-term future of work. For instance, reports estimate that between 45 per cent and 47 per cent of current jobs could eventually be lost to automation, with seven per cent of that job loss coming by the year 2025.”
Recently, The Associated Press carried a “Future of Work” series which examined the changing workplace as automation becomes more prevalent, noting that as automation eliminates many jobs, it also leads to new jobs requiring people with the skills to run the “robots.”
One story noting the plight of replaced workers quoted a 62-year-old longtime worker at the 3M plant in suburban Cincinnati whose job had been lost to automation and who lacked the necessary skills for one of the new jobs: “If you don’t keep up with the times you’re out of luck.”
At the other end of the scale, the story mentions an 18-year-old who has studied robotics and who anticipates his apprenticeship will prepare him to benefit from automation rather than fall victim to it.
“If you evolve with the robots that are evolving, you’ll grow with whatever is growing,” said the young man.
There lies one glimpse at adapting to the future — getting in step with the changing workplace as technology overhauls almost every area of the job field. But changes are coming so fast. A recent Canadian Press story noted the number of jobs threatened by automation ranging from 35 to 42 per cent.”
“The changes we are seeing are nothing less than historic and governments and educators need to take a skills-first, not a job-first approach,” said Scott Allinson, the Human Resources Professionals Association’s vice-president of public affairs.
That takes us back to Smeaton’s column expressing how important it is “that schools continue to transform to meet those needs.” And so must we all if we want to avoid being left behind in a changing world.