Monday, September 19, 2016

Future of Jobs - a critique

John Hagel provides here, a counter to the recent flood of articles, op eds and blogs on the future of work / the future of jobs. In the main, the theme in various articles summarised on this blog e.g. from the World Economic Forum,  nature of work into the future, changing nature of work, why we work, etc.

In the Hagel article, discussion is had on the following:

Firstly, is STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) the future. An important factor, especially in the NZ context. Hagel argues that focus on just one disciplinary aspect, leads to a rather unbalanced provision into the future. In the NZ context, there has been a big push for STEM with increased tertiary funding and support through Careers advise for STEM programmes. Schools are also encouraged through various initiatives, to encourage students into selecting STEM subjects and continuing into the advanced courses. In some universities, the decline in students studying humanities subject has let to restructuring - see recent article on Otago University.

Some aspects of the NZ economy could be enhanced through better STEM input. With an economy based around agriculture (including horticulture and forestry) and tourism, the tyranny of distance has recently been obviated through the rise of 'tech' companies, producing software solutions for a range of industries. For example Xero is often trotted out as an exemplar. Also, media stories on large number of small 'start-ups' and 'incubators' working on mobile apps, video games (rocketwertz),  sports visualisation etc. NZ is also a world leader when it comes to integration of technology with farming / horticulture / forestry practice.

However, as argued by Hagel, there is need for individuals to find, attain and sustain passion in what they set out to do. Not all individuals will have the attributes to be successful at STEM.

Also counters the perspective that technology will lead to jobs disappearing. Some jobs will never (?) be taken by computers / robots. Hagel's examples include craftspeople and artists, customizers (as in people who meet bespoke needs of consumers), curators, coaches, counsellors, compelling experience hosts, community hosts and moderators, captivating performers. The common theme with these jobs - creativity. Something educational systems have always struggled with assisting to develop.

The article then goes on to explain how people make a living. Suggests costs of living will decline due to technology and a move from 'ownership' to access. e.g. instead of owning a car, hire when required. Also that we should all consider and attain the attitudes to be entrepreneurs rather than employees.

All in , a worthwhile read, bringing some balance to the hype of technology advances and the other side of the coin with regards to the pessimistic outlook of the impact of technology on work. My take is that humans have survived due to their ability to adapt, innovate and re-invent themselves. There will be collateral damage along the way - such is life :( but like Hagel, I am an optimist. The future of work should not be feared but should be seen as another opportunity, to make use of technology to make the world a better place into the future.

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