I recently read an article about a meeting of a Tasmanian leadership group. The group was talking about the future of work and what it means for Tasmania. The issues they discussed, especially how education and work will interact going forward, are relevant to all of us.
Interaction with Education
The authors, Andrew Pitt and David Adams, said that the future of work will, by necessity, require workers to be in a constant educational process. They said employees “…will be defined less by their job and more by their skill set. The pace of change will mean that employment-relevant skills will have a shorter shelf life, regardless of whether you jump between different projects or remain with the one employer for a time.” They further said “People will need to engage with education and skills providers more frequently throughout their lives – not just at the start of their careers.”
I have written about this before in Learning to Learn: The Critical Skill that will preserve your future. Continual learning is going to be extremely important for workers in an environment that is constantly advancing. What you learned five years ago is old news today.
The Big Question
These authors point out that there remains one big question with the working population of the future. Actually, it is a question that involves the non-working population. They had three parts in their question as it relates to Tasmania, but everywhere you see the word Tasmania, I want you to substitute your country, city, state, or community. They asked:
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- What does the future hold for the traditionally high proportion of Tasmanians (38% in 2015) who have no qualification?
- How do we boost the traditionally low proportion of our population (20% in 2015) who are tertiary educated?
- How do we spread employment more evenly between Tasmanian regions?
These are significant questions for all areas of the world. In a world where “lifelong learning” will be the necessary ingredient for success, how do we spread this concept?
I don’t have the solution for this conundrum but I do have some suggestions. First, business and education need to have a much closer alliance than I feel there is today. Business needs to have more input into the skill sets that need to be taught. Education needs to adapt an approach that gets away from “education just for the sake of education.” I think a better standard might be education for the sake of employability.
This alliance needs to start early in the child’s life. Businesses need to work with elementary education systems because that is the level where they will have the most impact. Teaching children that education can lead to career success must happen early. Businesses also need to develop programs to help children get first jobs.
I know some of this occurs already, but I feel more can be done. If we don’t work on it now and make that segment of the population employable businesses, governments and tax payers will be paying for their lack of skills in the future.