Despite the onset of automation and the future of work, can we actually prepare ourselves to secure meaningful careers? To answer this query, there are four questions that should be addressed:
- Where can we find resources that have timely, reliable and relevant information?
- What skills do we need to future-proof ourselves regardless of the career path we choose?
- Are there certain industries and occupations that are more protected from automation than others?
- Are there any other key factors to consider that could impact future employment prospects?
Identifying relevant resources
There are some reliable resources available online. For starters explore 21st century learning (PAK21) formulated in line with the second wave of the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025. Besides PAK21, careeradvisor.asia also highlights essentials information and useful tools to equip students to embrace the skills for the future of work. These essential skills encompass three key areas:
- Life and career skills;
- Learning and innovation skills; and
- Information, media and technology skills.
The World Economic Forum and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are two other really good resources to tap into for the latest information and relevant global trends.
Keeping robots at bay
It can be an ongoing challenge to identify the specific skills needed to robot-proof ourselves, as the target is a moving one that seems to be in constant flux. The World Economic Forum has identified 10 top skills for the world of work in 2020:
- Complex problem solving;
- Critical thinking;
- People management;
- Emotional intelligence;
- Judgement and decision-making;
- Service orientation;
- Negotiation; and
- Cognitive flexibility.
21st Century Learning Skills identifies 20 distinct skills within the framework of what they call “the 7Cs” (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, cross-cultural understanding, computing, career and learning self-reliance).
The OECD holds an annual Skills Summit to review and revise its list of top-needed skills. It also offers a Skills Strategy framework and produces a Skills Outlook report.
It would be good for us to start participating in activities that will help us develop many of these skills. Get involved in volunteering (service orientation), compete in team sports and activities (collaboration), participate in the arts (creativity) and perhaps complete one certification training (critical thinking).
Learn how to prepare an impressive resume, cover letter and identify how to ace that interview with your skills. Google what these skills really mean and, more importantly, research ideas that you can use to help improve on them.
The results from this preparation and skills development will be apparent – and before you know it you would have secured a part-time job as well as a full-time summer job. Both opportunities will expose you to working with and tactfully communicate with the public.
Search for certainty in an uncertain world
The consensus is that there is still significant uncertainty around the impact and timing of AI and automation in the workplace of the future. The OECD estimates that approximately 9% of jobs in OECD countries can be automated. This includes not only occupations that have been deemed to be routine and low-skilled but is now also starting to include more highly skilled occupations.
Vivienne Ming, a theoretical neuroscientist who has written and presented on the topic of “How to robot-proof your kids,” says that we will need to be creative, adaptive problem solvers to thrive in this new age of AI.
Occupations that will be harder to unbundle (i.e. breaking down existing responsibilities into smaller, more routine tasks) will stand a better chance of not being automated. Occupations that involve caring for, educating or overseeing humans should also continue to fare quite well. For the time being, occupations that rely on varying degrees of abstract thinking, interpersonal skills and creativity will also continue to thrive.
We will all need to improve our ability to learn – to become more practical learners who can adequately identify and absorb only the most pertinent information from the continuous, high-volume of data we now face.
There are many other factors that could affect the world of work on both the micro and macro levels. This includes political shifts, demographic changes, global warming, unanticipated advancements (i.e. disruptions) in technology, global trade agreements, etc.
The key is to be able to spot any new trends as they emerge and then determine how much of an impact they could have on your own career and employment situation. Contacting industry or occupation-specific professional associations is one reliable way to address this.
So, can we prepare ourselves to find meaningful careers in the future of work? Use this question to be an effective guide. As you journey towards a meaningful career, have the confidence that you will continue to utilize these readily available resources to thrive amid the disruption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.