Future Jobs header

What does the future of employability look like? 
What skills will be rewarded in the workplace? 
Here's what you need to know.

Social media strategist, Uber driver, SEO manager, drone operator. What do all these jobs titles have in common? They didn’t exist 10 years ago.

The advent of the Internet and the rise of smartphones have created jobs that we couldn’t have imagined before the 21st century. Not since the industrial revolution have we seen such rapid technological change.

These technological shifts are giving us new jobs, but they could just as easily render many jobs obsolete. And there’s one technology in particular dominating many future-focused conversations: Artificial Intelligence (AI).

David Barnett, managing director of Pearson Asia-Pacific, recently spoke about the potential of AI in education, explaining how the education industry as the ability to be at the forefront of this change. Yet in a 2013 study that looked at the impact of AI on the job market, predicting that 47 percent of American jobs could be automated in the next 20 years.

Which jobs are most at risk?

Have you heard of IBM’s Think Watson? It’s a piece of AI technology that has, among other things, graduated from medical school and won the quiz show Jeopardy. With a resume like that, you can see how Watson could be a more attractive employee than a human.

“The jobs that are predictable, repeatable or analytic (that is, they’re just about analysing data), are the ones that are going to go. When analysing data, we can do it better with AI than humans in almost every circumstance,” says Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte1.

He believes we’re hollowing out the jobs in the middle. What people might have once considered normal, “middle-class” jobs, like working in a bank or in administration.

And he’s backed up by data. An Oxford University study, analysed by PwC, suggested the following jobs had over an 85 percent probability of being automated in the next 20 years:

Future skills 85 percent

* Accounting clerks

* Cashiers

* General office admin workers

* Wood machinists

* Financial and insurance administration workers

* Farm, forestry and garden workers

* Personal assistants and secretaries

* Sales administration workers

* Keyboard operators

* Hospitality administration and support workers

* Sales assistants and salespersons

* Real estate sales agents

What does this mean for you?

New jobs are being created every day because of these new technologies. We just need to learn how best to adapt and plan for the future.

"We have dealt with change on this scale before,” says Barnett. “Rather than viewing this new challenge as a time for fear, learners should see this as a time of great excitement. The shift in the status quo ultimately values the individual and originality — a quality that education always aims to foster."

The influence of disruptive thinkers marks a time for evolution in the education system. That’s why Pearson hosted a roundtable discussion for The McKell Institute report No Mind Left Behind, about building a modern education system for Australia.

“Knowledge, in today’s innovation economy, is worthless,” said 17-year-old entrepreneur, Taj Pabari, at the discussion. “The world really no longer cares about what you know, but more importantly, what you do with what you know. At school and university, we’re manufacturing walking, talking textbooks... not 21st century learners who have the skills to tackle the problems of the 21st century.”

Future Jobs what skills are important

Which skills will be important in the future?

The job market in the next couple of years will see those with certain skills succeed.

“The jobs that aren’t going to go are those that are about originality,” says Professor Durrant-Whyte. “Creative jobs are going to remain, as well as those jobs that require deep social skills… those are the kinds of jobs that are going to grow. That’s where the future is going to be.”

So social skills and creativity are high on the list — like jobs in design, the arts, counselling and social work — but it goes even further.

"The ability to adapt has proved a necessity for those who came before us and this point in history, no matter how rapidly things are advancing, is no different,” says Barnett. “In fact, it's for this very reason that adaptability is so valuable. Those who can quickly adapt and find ways to work with the new technology, rather than distance themselves from it, will be the ultimate winners.".

“No matter what your background, if you’re a media person, an artist or whatever, you are going to have to know and be able to apply technology in the future. We’re going to need technology generalists, the creative application of technology. That is the future,” says Professor Durrant-Whyte.

And how is Pearson responding to the shift?

Barnett sees it as a great time for collaboration between the education industry and schools of all levels. This is the broader idea, but there’s another — pretty amazing — response: “We have a very new partnership with IBM and their famous AI technology called Watson,” says Barnett. “Together, we will create a virtual tutor to help get students unstuck when they’re studying.”

That’s the core of it — transformational innovation. And given the way learners of today pick up new ideas and adapt to technological shifts, the future is clearly bright.

1‘Future work: skills, productivity and innovation’ by Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte. http://adminpanel.ceda.com.au/FOLDERS/Service/Files/Documents/32595~TopTenDigitalFINAL(002).pdf

2 Future-proofing Australia’s workforce by growing skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)’ April 2015

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