Monday, November 20, 2017

Preparing the workforce for the future

Two articles of interest over the last couple of weeks, on the challenges wrought by the rapid move to a 'post-industrial' society and the threats of AI / digital economy to the out current way of life.

These two articles, discuss proposed ways forward to prepare workers for the future of work.

Firstly, an article from Todayonline on 'preparing the workforce for a changing future'. This article, spells out the current thinking of the Singapore Government in working towards preparing workers for the future of work. Basically, an excerpt from a speech by the Minister of Education (Higher Education and Skils) - Ong Ye Kung. Being a small country, Singapore has a history of being agile in meeting the various swings in world economy demands. A key to the country's flexibilitiy is the control over its education system. My relatives in Singapore, who are teachers, bemoan the ever increasing need to be engaged with 'lifelong learning' through mandated professional development programmes. However, all of this continual investment in education, to ensure teachers are well trained (note - not so much well -educated) means the curriculum is continually revamped to move with the Government's interpretation of 'what needs to happen to maintain economic growth'.

So the article, spells out the current and near future plans into the future, for the Singapore Continuing Education and Training (CET) sector. Of note, is the government's funding of all Singaporeans to engage in life-long learning through the Skills-Future Credit scheme. The focus is on courses on data analytics, advanced manufacturing, finance, digital media, cyber security, entrepreneurship, tech-enabled services in logistics and hospitality sectors and urban solutions. So a slant towards increasing capability and skills in the IT / AI / digital integration subjects.

The second article is from the bbcnews on 'how UK must prepare for the fourth industrial revolution. It is a summary of an independent review chaired by Siemens UK, highlighting the benefits of robotics, 3D printing and AI. There is a call for a commission to be formed, to help UK businesses adjust to the shift as large numbers of workers will need to be retrained.

Again, the focus here is on attaining IT / AI and digital literacy type skills.

This morning, a timely report to round off the two above from the NZ Herald. On the topic 'will robots take over the world?' In short, a warning, that AI is perhaps currently over-hyped and there is still much to be done, before robots are anywhere able to take over the world. A good example is the often rolled up example of how Google developed an AI programme to beat the best human player in the game Go. However, this programme is only able to play Go and not able to do much else. Human traits like common sense, intuition, tacit knowledge and emotional attributes like compassion are a long way from being 'programmable'.

Which leads me to think about the concentration in Singapore and the UK on the 'hard skills' and the need for workers of the future to also be really aware of the ethics of implementing AI solutions. AI may be programmed with rules and algorithms to be ethical, but ethics is and perhaps may never be able to sort out the 'grey' as life, as we now know it, is far from 'black and white'.

Food for thought for this week :)

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