Whether it is the gig economy, the sharing economy or the modern workforce, things are changing in the United States. And the way things will be tomorrow may or may not be as they are today. Yet one thing remains true: We must prepare today’s workers for what is to come tomorrow and give tomorrow’s workers (today’s youth) the skills they will need when it comes their time to enter the workforce.
First off, we need to rethink how the fundamental skill-sets for the future workforce will differ from the ones for the current workforce. One of the biggest questions of the day is — you guessed it — how big of a part is technology going to play in our emerging workforce, especially in regards to automation and artificial intelligence. That is the big one. It is important to “understand automation and AI and what the impact will be,” said Jeanne Meister, founder of HR advisory firm Future Workplace and author of The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules for Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees to the New York Times. However, according to a study by The Workforce Institute at Kronos, “three out of five organizations internationally have yet to discuss with their employees AI’s potential impact on the workforce.”
Nearly half of almost 2,000 technology builders and analysts recently surveyed by the Pew Center said that technology will have displaced more jobs — both blue and white-collar workers — than it creates by 2025.
Not as simple as just tech, however
It isn’t as simple as just focusing on technology. Farnam Jahanian, who is the president of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, told fastcompany.com that “we need to take a step back and address the educational challenges more holistically, including the issues of access and affordability, and readiness to meet the needs of a constantly evolving future.” It is also important to be fluid in your skill-set, be adaptable and have the ability to take on multi-skilled roles instead of the traditional position of just “staying within your lane” of the past. According to Jahanian, “U.S. kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12) education needs work. Especially in improving student preparation in computer and other science disciplines, math, and digital competency.”
But, not only technologically based skills or math skills should be valued, either. Soft skills such as communication, critical thinking, decision-making and others should be taught to kids and emerging workplace professionals as well. The transactional nature of education needs to give way to an attitude of lifelong learning. Versatility is key.
“Current job seekers would do well to tout their hybrid skills as they enter the workforce,” said Susan Brennan, associate VP of career services at Bentley to Forbes. “At one time you could really thrive in the marketplace with the technical skills or you could go into a human resources role or even a career services role with the soft-skills competencies,” she said. “But that no longer exists. We’re seeing this merging across functions and a requirement for job seekers to have these skills across a number of these functions.”
The workforce of the future is not the workforce of the past. Indeed, it is not even the workforce of the present. Unlike previous generations, people will be unlikely to stay at one organization, company or job throughout their lifetimes. People will need various types of skills — including technological, digital and communicational — and these skills will need to blend relatively seamlessly. Gone are the days when the receptionist has soft skills and the IT guy has hard skills. A certain crossover will be — is — becoming more and more important as the years move forward.
In addition, people are more likely to work remotely now whereas Baby Boomers or even earlier generations could probably count the number of times they worked outside of their office on one (maybe two) hands.
It is important to be cognizant of, and fluent in, the humanities. Ironically, although automation is real, a great antidote to it is sharpening up on your liberal arts education. Studying things such as art, philosophy and literature might actually help to prepare for the future of the workforce and secure your job, too. With a broad range of knowledge in the humanities, you will be able to control artificial intelligence instead of artificial intelligence controlling you.
Our ability to make sense of the world is our best asset against things like automation. Whereas tech can perform narrow, repetitive tasks very well, creative solutions are where it tends to get bogged down. Be multi-disciplined and develop a variety of skills. Above all, be adaptable and have a variety of experience.
Yes, the modern and future workforce will be changing, and we cannot stop that from happening. But there are things that we can still do to counteract, combat, and yes, make the process and transition a whole lot easier for ourselves. Stay loose, don’t get bogged down in one school of thought or career skill-set. And while it is important to learn about technology, it is equally important to have a strong grasp of the humanities.
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