When you picture the world 15 to 20 years from now, what do you see? Some take the ‘half-full’ view, noting the seemingly endless possibilities on the horizon. For others, it’s a doom and gloom scenario in which an army of robots has stolen away the jobs we rely on today. And if you’re Elon Musk, who’s called artificial intelligence (AI) a “existential risk for human civilization”, the outlook is even more bleak.
But regardless of your perspective, everyone agrees that the future will usher in dramatic changes, particularly in the way that we work.
STEM initiatives have popped up around the country in an effort to mitigate the impact of this disruption and smooth the transition to the workplace of the future. But STEM isn’t necessarily the silver bullet we’ve all hoped for (at least not in isolation).
When it comes to preparing for the digital future, we need to look beyond technology. While STEM skills are important, being ‘future ready’ does not mean ticking off device and software competencies like a grocery shopping list. It means being able to learn and adapt, use your existing skills in new ways and take an entrepreneurial mindset that sees the opportunity beyond the threat.
The skills of the future
What’s encouraging is that workers appear to be up for the challenge. Research from Accenture found that 84% are excited about the changes technology is bringing to their work and more than three out of four are optimistic about the impact of automation. What’s more is that 80% of workers would invest their own free time to develop the skills they need to stay relevant.
Any teacher will tell you that an eager student can be more successful than a ‘smart’ one. The question now, however, is what skills should we be learning?
Dr. Catherine Ball, co-founder of She Flies and The World of Drones Congress told audiences on ABC’s Q&A this week that complex-problem solving skills are key to future success.
“Robots are very good at the mundane but they’re not very good at thinking outside the square or being creative. Keep your life experiences as broad as possible, travel, meet as many different kinds of people as you can, make sure you have a balance between some coding or STEM skills and creative thinking.”
While it’s never too late to hone these entrepreneurial skills, experts argue that if we truly want to empower and inspire the innovators of the future, an entrepreneurial mindset must be modelled to them from an early stage.
“Entrepreneurial skills aren’t just for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurial skills are life skills. They’re things like confidence, resilience, creative problem solving, critical thinking, the ability to collaborate and draw on other people for skills and knowledge, and being brave enough to put an idea into action,” says Tania Price, co-founder of not-for-profit Club Kidpreneur, which teaches entrepreneurship skills to students ages 8 to 12 by helping them start their own microbusinesses at school.
She argues the traditional way of learning needs to give way to more experiential tactics.
“Don’t get caught up in the STEM hype to the detriment of other critical skills. Disruption is removing the traditional barriers to education and democratizing access. With knowledge just a Google search away – we are moving to knowledge application and challenge-based learning rather than traditional memory skills that the 20th century relied upon.
“Traditional classrooms will cease to exist as technology enables us to tailor education to every child rather than one size fit all front-of-the-classroom teaching.”
Facilitating growth in the workplace
The shift toward a more entrepreneurial mindset is not just for new entrants into the workforce. Disruption will require workers at all levels and industries to adapt and evolve their skillsets. While we cannot expect businesses to protect roles that are made redundant by new technology, we can expect them to help today’s workers prepare for the jobs of tomorrow. And it’s in their best interest, particularly as attracting and retaining top talent becomes more competitive.
Businesses should be exploring new solutions that enable more personalized training, re-skilling and more flexible work arrangements – and workers should be demanding it. Furthermore, trainging shouldn’t end with the onboarding process. John Chaplin, Head of Digital at Hogarth Australia argues we need to take a longer term view of learning and development – which will require a shift in thinking for many organisations.
“I think the key responsibility of the organisation is to create a ‘thirsty’ culture for learning and change. I think once that is in place, you have an environment where people find ways to upskill, learn and share their learnings. I think the formal way of training only provides the foundation of relevant upskilling.”
The future of work is happening now. While there are many challenges and unanswered questions, there are also untapped opportunities to explore. As we prepare for the changes ahead, it’s time to worry less about the devices and software we’re adding to our CVs and more about how we use that technology to solve problems, collaborate and create.
Find out more about Entrepreneurship at AGSM.