Q: What does this mean for the way we act in the workplace?
We need to change the education system from the traditional Western system of school then college or university to a much more fluid lifelong learning paradigm. The technologies our children will be using in jobs 20 years from now are radically different to those we have now.
We can’t predict what they will look like, so what’s critical now is for the traditional education system to teach learnability, meaning the ability to be agile and to possess the intellectual curiosity and desire to continue to learn. It would allow people to reinvent themselves every three to five years, because that is the pace at which skillsets will need to evolve and change. Careers are a lot shorter than they used to be. People in our parents’ generation would join a company at 16 or 18 or 20 and stay there until they retired. The employer would take care of some minor reskilling, but frankly not much was needed as jobs didn’t change very much.
Today, millennials only stay in a job for two years, and each time they switch to a new position they need to reinvent themselves, because the job market has already changed so much. The cycle becomes do some work, learn a bit more, do some more work, learn a bit more and so on. Career progression becomes much more about marketing yourself. The product you are selling is your brain and you have to figure out how to market it best to make yourself stand out. You also need to work out where the marketplaces of the future are going so you can acquire the skills to operate in those markets.
Q: Will this concept create more or less equality in society?
It could be more equal or it could be less. It’s up to us to make opportunities available to more people who don’t have them today. There’s a huge geographic mismatch — the US election was the perfect example of this — whereby the so-called “elites” have tremendous opportunities, but the people in the middle of the country graduated from good universities but feel they don’t have those opportunities because they are in the wrong place(s).
That’s extremely unjust. It’s a huge waste of human talent, and there’s no reason it needs to be the case. By building an economy less bound to geography, people can live away from the big cities and still have access to the same job opportunities. Online teaching and peer-based learning opportunities make education much more financially accessible to a far wider group.
It will take the public and private sector, working together, to build create alternatives and innovative approaches to the issues we face, but in doing so we can create a future that is a lot more just with less inequality. But it’s up to us to build this future. The future is what we make of it — it’s not predetermined.
Generated by EYQ, an EY think tank that explores leading and emerging trends, focusing on “what’s after what’s next?”.