2025: The changing world of work

The world is on the brink of an historical era shift similar to the Renaissance, Reformation and Industrial Revolution, says futurist Graeme Codrington. He describes this change as a “deep structural shift” where new technology, economic and political realities and societal structures emerge.

Codrington, founding director of strategic insights firm TomorrowToday, suggests four ways in which this change impacts the world of work by 2025:

1. Automation

Half of the jobs that exist today (including doctors, actuaries and accountants) will be redundant as automation takes over. In addition to robots, algorithms which integrate hardware and software systems, will make decisions.  “It happened to the farmers 100 years ago; it happened to the factories 50 years ago. Now the machines are coming for your job,” says Codrington.

2. Freelance

About 25% of the people working in offices will be freelancers. “We will have the ‘on-demand economy’,” says Codrington. Employers will only get the skills they need, when they need them. Currently, websites like Elance, TaskRabbit and Freelancer allow freelancers to advertise their skills.

“It’s kind of like an e-Bay for skills,” he says. The employer specifies the job required online, people present bids for the job and the employer gets to pick the cheapest person. Jobs are now being done at a “digital distance”.

3. Smart devices

These are the most powerful handheld devices, a supercomputer, less than an arm’s length away from you at all times. Codrington says that these are well priced for everyone, not just the rich. The divide between the rich and the poor will no longer exist as everyone can enter the digital age without restriction. “If we can give people free Wi-Fi, free cloud storage and a R500 smartphone, everybody gets to play.”

4. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)

The world’s best universities will be putting their best courses, online for free. Platforms like Coursera are already offering a number of free courses from universities including Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt and Peking University.

Educating children for the future

Michelle Lissoos, managing director at Think Ahead solutions, says that children currently entering the school system will be walking into the world of work described by Codrington – their jobs don’t exist yet. “Children won’t be getting jobs from the Fortune 500 companies but rather in small micro-enterprises,” says Nikki Bush, a parenting expert.

Schools have to prepare students for this “non-existent” workplace. However, despite there being change in industries such as banking, health and transport, classrooms haven’t changed, says Lissoos. Schools have to redefine 21st century literacy which involves leadership, digital literacy, emotional intelligence, entrepreneurship, global citizenship, team-working and problem solving with cognitive skills. Students should learn how to curate and critically evaluate information. Coding is being introduced into curriculums because it teaches problem solving, critical analysis, collaboration and team work, says Lissoos.

Many schools make the mistake of introducing technology that does not make real change. ”There is a lot of substitution but no redefinition,” says Lissoos.  For example, she says, black boards are simply replaced with white boards; it does not change how students are taught. Technology should be accompanied by project-based and challenge- based learning. Additionally, technology integration should be part of teacher training. Lissoos explains that there are big rollouts of technology. Tablets are handed out and connectivity is improved at schools but teachers are not trained to work with it, she adds.

Things have changed significantly, says Bush, and both children and businesses should be prepared for an “uncertain reality”. She explains that corporates should work together with schools in terms of sharing resources and informing schools of their needs and skills shortages.

This article was featured in Finweek magazine.

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