It’s a given that we all know that the fusion of computational capability, automation and connectivity is making an impact across the board as we disrupt with new 4IR technologies evolving into an economy powered by mobile internet and artificial intelligence.

According to the World Economic Forum, “The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry and the breadth and depth of these changes is transforming entire systems of production, management and governance.”

In short, it’s big, it’s happening now, and we will all be affected – Mike Kazmierski

The jobs we see now are not the jobs we can expect to see in the future.  To attract the next generation of jobs will require us focusing on emerging technology and innovation in artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, drones, the “internet of things,”, robotics, 3D printing, biotechnology, blockchain technology, data science, and others. Keenly we need to address how we educate and train our workforce in the skills required to take on these leading-edge companies.

Industry disruption is a positive cycle, with 4IR forcing adaptive strategy to take on a bigger and better future in almost every industry sector. One such strategy is prepping the youth for future employment with focused STEAM education, as since 2000 there has been a fusion of technologies, that are blurring biological domains, digital and physical and creating what is termed ‘cyber-physical’ systems.

What do these systems mean for jobs in 2030?  Will machines be taking our jobs?

John Fallon, chief executive officer of Pearson says: “The future of work is brighter than conventional wisdom suggests – it is not going to be human versus machine, but rather human and machine.”

Pearson undertook a study with Nesta and the Oxford Martin School to evaluate where jobs would be in 2030 and what skills we would need in these, a study that “finds that while many jobs today will still be in demand by 2030 and beyond, the skills required for success in these roles are changing” says Managing Director for Pearson South Africa, Ebrahim Matthews.

A snapshot of what the study forecasts:

  • “Only one in five workers are in occupations that will shrink. This figure is much lower than recent studies of automation have suggested.
  • Only one in ten workers are in occupations that are likely to grow.
  • Seven in ten workers are in jobs where there is greater uncertainty about the future. However, contrasting the negative outlook of other research, [their findings] indicate that we can do a great deal to help people prepare for the future.
  • Although there is already broad understanding that “21st century skills” will be in demand, this research leads to a far more nuanced understanding of which skills will be in greatest demand.
  • [Their research] definitively shows that both knowledge and skills will be required for the future economy.
  • Occupations and their skill requirements are not set in stone. Occupations can be re-designed to pair uniquely human skills with the productivity gains from technology to boost demand for jobs.
  • The research findings have significant implications for education systems.
  • Moving Beyond Generic Definitions of “21st Century Skills” Education systems will need to support better understanding, teaching practice, and assessment of the granular skills that will be in greater demand.
  • Developing Pedagogies to Support Dynamic Knowledge and Skill Development.
  • Educational institutions will need to provide supports to educators as they are asked to teach these new skills. This could require significant retooling of teacher education or faculty incentives in educational institutions.
  • Adapting Faster to the Changing Needs of the Labour Market.
  • One thing that is clear from the research is that the pace of change will continue to accelerate. Education systems developed 20-30 years ago will actually need to plan for a future 20-30 years away.
  • Offering More Flexible and Adaptive Pathways.
  • As the pace of change accelerates, learners will demand more ways to convert learning to earning. Although there will likely always be some demand for traditional brick-and-mortar experiences, more learners will want accelerated and flexible pathways, such as credentials or badges.”

According to a World Economic Forum report, “a new report from the McKinsey Global Institute has highlighted how it thinks a range of jobs based on human skills are likely to be affected by AI and automation,” under the following skills categories:

  • Physical and manual skills
  • Basic cognitive skills
  • Higher cognitive skills
  • Social and emotional skills, and
  • Technological skills

The research found that there will be a shift “from activities that require only basic cognitive skills to those that use higher cognitive skills. Indeed, the decline in work activities that mainly require basic cognitive skills is the largest across our five categories. Demand for higher cognitive skills such as creativity, critical thinking and decision making, and complex information processing, will grow through 2030 at cumulative double-digit rates. The growing need for creativity is seen in many activities, including developing high-quality marketing strategies. The rise in complex information processing, meanwhile, is related to the need to be aware of market trends and the regulatory environment that affects a company’s operation, or the need to understand and explain to customers the technical details of a company’s products and services.”

The report indicated that it was technological skills (“everything from basic to advanced IT skills, data analysis, engineering and research), that are likely to be the most highly rewarded as companies seek more software developers, engineers, robotics and scientific experts. Competition for high-skill workers will increase,” the report states, “while displacement [losing or moving jobs, or having insufficient work] will be concentrated mainly on low-skill workers, continuing a trend that has exacerbated income inequality and reduced middle-wage jobs.  Companies say that high-skill workers are most likely to be hired and retrained, and to see rising wages.”

So, will we be replaced by robots?

Speaking at the World Government Summit (WGS) in Dubai, Mohammad Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future and Chairman of the WGS, said the difference between “humans and AI is imagination.” He states that “45 per cent of jobs in the future will change. As for the jobs that require creativity and creation of content, like design, arts, music, these are the jobs based on imagination and these are the jobs that will create a niche for human beings. Today, the value of the creative jobs industry sits at $2.5 trillion. But by 2030 there will be a shortage of 85 million jobs within this sector. The government is looking to fill this gap and in the coming future we must teach creativity and imagination and get the youth interested in the creative sector; a sector which will be worth $8.5 trillion dollars by 2030.”

Kelly Clarke of Kaleej Times summarises succinctly, “As we shift from an age of information to an age of imagination, the role of technology will slowly dominate government shift and focus, however an immigration of ideas is what will drive talent in the future. And it is that which will separate human beings from Artificial Intelligence (AI).”

STEAM, Drones and a new era.

It is not a new issue for society to fear automation and its impact on employment and historically technology delivers new types of jobs and supports better human performance, we adapt. Today with the greater connectivity we enjoy, and the improvements on computing power and AI, we can now embed ‘intelligence’ more efficiently and cost effectively in physical systems from cities to human bodies, enhancing our world and our quality of life. We need to prepare our future workforce with the skills they will need to enjoy meaningful careers in our future, and we need to embrace technology as our partner in creating a better future with the value that it adds to this.

As John Fallon, chief executive officer of Pearson says: “It is clear that technology is changing the global economy and labour markets, but we still retain the ability to control our destiny. We must re-evaluate the skills people will need for a digital future, and update our education systems to ensure teachers have the right tools to help students succeed in the workforce of tomorrow.”

Drone technology bares looking at as it offers a view into how these changes in skill sets and job differences might unfold, given they will replace most high-risk jobs that threaten safety of workers, at the same time they will enhance job performance in existing jobs and create entirely new jobs in the future. Drones are set to play a role in almost every industry sector, and they are fast becoming, and will be, an every-day experience in the future, down to one’s pizza likely being delivered to your door by your local pizza drone!

There are a predicted 100,000 drone-related careers estimated to hit the job market over the next few years in various fields from 3D Mapping, drone data collection, defence, emergency response and conservation to disease control and health care; in agriculture and weather forecasting to maritime, mining and construction, with drone technology support too in infrastructure planning and development, insurance, personal transportation and airlines, to name but a few. They now offer more career opportunities in an emerging global market for business services using drones, that according to a PwC report, has a potential value of over US$127 billion.

STEAM education is core in the process of supporting careers in the future. In South Africa the PwC 21st Annual Global CEO Survey – 2018 indicates that 98% of South African CEOs say they are worried about the availability of key skills for the future. SA business is demanding STEAM education. In pioneering a world class Africa, we can do no less than start at the very foundation where change is needed for the future.  In education.

Supporting the need for South African advancement in STEAM, the Inspire S.T.E.A.M programme works with drone technology applying the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, to drive home an experience of innovation with tech; bringing STEAM alive in the classroom, igniting young imaginations and opening up insight into a multitude of career opportunities on their bright horizon. 

Integrating technology to assist students in constructing meaningful knowledge. 

John Dewey, Educational Philosopher, wrote more than a century ago: “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.” It stood true then and stands true today. Adaption.

In a tech era is the answer to become more human? #WorthWatching