Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Future of Work

The future of work should be on the top of everyone’s mind as it is smacking us right now in the face.  As I have previously written, we are in the midst of the 4th Industrial Revolution, where rampant innovation and exponential advances in technology are changing the societal landscape.  We are seeing professions being redefined or outright eradicated.  Here is a fact.  Millions of jobs are and will continue to be, lost as a result of artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, and automation.  So, what does this all mean? Below is a synopsis from the World Economic Forum (WEF):
As technological breakthroughs rapidly shift the frontier between the work tasks performed by humans and those performed by machines and algorithms, global labor markets are likely to undergo significant transformations. These transformations, if managed wisely, could lead to a new age of good work, good jobs and improved quality of life for all, but if managed poorly, pose the risk of widening skills gaps, greater inequality, and broader polarization. In many ways, the time to shape the future of work is now. 
The WEF goes on to summarize five trends that everyone needs to know about to be ready for this paradigm shift.
  1. Automation, robotization, and digitization look different across different industries
  2. There is a net positive outlook for jobs – amid significant job disruption
  3. The division of labor between humans, machines, and algorithms is shifting fast
  4. New tasks at work are driving demand for new skills
  5. We will all need to become lifelong learners
There is a great deal to unpack here.  To begin, let’s focus on the most critical overreaching element. Change is not only on our doorstep, but it is about to kick the darn door in.  As a parent, this terrifies me as both my children will be thrust into this world very soon. There is some good news, however.  In the midst of the 4th and eventually the 5th Industrial Revolution, there will be millions of new jobs.  Will our learners be ready?

The question above is meant as a catalyst for reflection.  The future of work requires new skills, and it is up to K-12 education to lead the charge in this area.  Skills are not enough, in my opinion.  Yes, we want learners to have the requisite skills to meet the needs and demands inherent in the 4th Industrial Revolution. More importantly, it is our duty and the role of education to ensure that they are competent. Here are some of the thoughts I shared on this in a previous post:
Competencies outline "how" the goals and objectives will be accomplished. They are more detailed and define the requirements for success in broader, more inclusive terms than skills do. There is also an increased level of depth that considers skills, knowledge, and abilities. To succeed in the new world of work, students will need to demonstrate the right mix of skills, knowledge, and on-the-job ability. A skill is a practical or cognitive demonstration of what a student can do. Competency is the proven use of skills, knowledge, and abilities to illustrate mastery of learning by solving problems. 
The image below outlines the critical competencies (left side) that students will need in the future of work and how educators can make sure they develop them (right side).

Empowering our learners to think critically and solve real-world problems is paramount. However, as the WEF notes, lifelong learning is a must for all of us, not just the kids we serve. To meet the demands and expectations for work now and in the future, we must commit to professional growth. It is vital to make the time to learn and grow as opposed to finding the time. If we rely on the latter, chances are it will never happen.  Lifelong learning can come in many forms, but in my opinion, the most practical and time-friendly option is the creation and use of a Personal Learning Network (PLN). Using social media allows all of us real-time access to the most relevant ideas and knowledge that can be immediately implemented into practice to prepare learners for their future better.

The time is now to move the needle on needed change. The longer we wait, the greater the risk for those we serve – our kids. 

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