Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Tech Tuesday: The Future of Jobs (Part One)

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash
I recently visited a website from which I downloaded the executive summary of a report by the World Economic Forum titled The Future of Jobs and Skills.

Many of us naturally think about the future. What will the future be like for cities has been on my mind a lot this past week. With the destruction of property in the Twin Cities and elsewhere, it's fairly easy to wonder how this will impact jobs in these places. The pandemic has already stressed and stretched many business categories, most notably the restaurant trade.

The WEF report focuses on the jobs landscape a little further down the road, and I would like to briefly highlight those aspects of the jobs market. "By one popular estimate," the authors state, "65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist."

It's easy to imagine this being true, even if we have a harder time imagining what those jobs will look like.

How many Baby Boomers graduated high school in the Sixties imagining they might be doing Search Engine Optimization or Social Media Marketing one day. Even if you heard these expressions, you'd probably be scratching your head wondering how to prepare for such a thing.

The report goes on to say, "In such a rapidly evolving employment landscape, the ability to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements, job content and the aggregate effect on employment is increasingly critical for businesses, governments and individuals in order to fully seize the opportunities presented by these trends—and to mitigate undesirable outcomes."

Even the railroad industry ain't what it used to be.
That's a phrase the strikes a chord for me, "to mitigate undesirable outcomes." I can't predict what those future jobs will be called, but many of them will require thinking, lifelong learning and knowing how to read. Dropping out of school is not a great way to prepare for an unknown future.

There are a variety of drivers of tomorrow's changes, many of which have been developing for decades. The WEF report continues:

We are today at the beginning of a Fourth Industrial Revolution. Developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and genetics and biotechnology are all building on and amplifying one another. Smart systems—homes, factories, farms, grids or entire cities—will help tackle problems ranging from supply chain management to climate change.

Ten or fifteen years ago the first rumblings of the Internet of Things (IoT) were getting publicized beyond the geek culture where it had been first envisioned. How much this will evolve is uncertain, but it's already happening more than you probably realize.

So, do they have any examples of new careers that will emerge? Of course.

One area of expertise for which there will be a dire need is data analytics. Computers generate reams of data faster than you can blink. I read, for example, that self-driving cars must process a million or more data points per second in order to get you where you want to go. I've seen reports an inch thick pertaining to data generated by an online ad campaign. Acquiring the information is easy, wise use of the data less so.

The future of architectural design will knock your socks off.*
The saying, "Information is power" is only half true if you don't know how to read the tea leaves. Too often people have blind spots, and when it comes to political situations you can get tangled in other peoples' agendas. Then there's that other problem: we don't know what we don't know.

A second category of future jobs is just an extension of a current one. There will always be a need for good salespeople. As industries become more complex, more automated or technical, these salespeople will have to remain committed to staying current or they will fall into irrelevance. By this I mean one will need to be continuously doing one's homework in order to explain what they are selling to business or government clients and consumers, in terms decision makers and customers understand.

There are other jobs (like sales) that will utilize existing skills as a foundation that can be built on. Writers who develop specialized knowledge and stay current will always have value. Spell-checkers and Grammarly are useful to a point, but when you write about wind turbine lubricants or advances in filtration efficiency due to advances in nanotechnology, you can't just make up a bunch of buzzwords and hope to get by.

My advice... Whatever field you're in, keep adding to your tool kit. Knowledge, experience, and applied critical thinking are the coins of the realm.

Related Links
Surviving AI by Calum Chace Is a Must Read for Those Who Plan to Be Here in the Future
A Visit with Futurist Calum Chace on his new book The Economic Singularity
*Illustration courtesy AEC Design Center

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