5 tips to be ready for the future of work
By Ulises Brengi, 22, Argentina, a member of the Generation Unlimited Young People’s Action Team
This blog was first published on Voices of Youth, a global community for young people to learn about development issues (such as Environment, Education, Human Rights, etc) and to express their opinions. Voices of Youth seeks to create a space that will help young people develop into active global citizens equipped to communicate and collaborate effectively to make a positive difference in their countries and communities.
The first time I heard the term Future of Work, it sounded like a futuristic TRON-style movie, very far away from us, but in fact, it’s right across the corner, if not already here. The main question is: are we ready for it?
Last year, as part of my job as a Learning Experience Designer at Eidos Global, we teamed with Impacto Digital and created FLOW, an interactive experience on the Future of Work. After implementing this initiative in different contexts, countries and with different audiences (being most of them young people or students like me) I realized we are facing something we are not aware of nor ready for. Therefore, here are my 5 tips on how to be future-ready.
1. Before talking about it, let’s put a definition on it.
As said before, this sci-fi term brings a lot to mind but do we know what it really means? According to the OECD, the World Economic Forum, and the ILO we could say that “Future of Work” (FoW) is a concept used to describe the consequences of major trends including the rise of exponential technologies (like Artificial Intelligence) and their effects on existing and non-existing jobs. Also, it includes the exploration of the set of skills required to prepare people for this upcoming (and near) future.
2. It’s not bad or good, it’s the future, it’s just different.
When I started digging into the FoW scope, I found that every year a lot of big organizations make different reports on the topic where the main highlights are “Robots could take over 20m jobs”. Pretty scary, right? Every industrial revolution brought a lot of changes, and this is not going to be the exception to the rule. The thing is, that yes, the Future of Work will bring a lot of changes, and some jobs will be obsolete, but also a lot of new jobs will be created.
Every time I talk about FoW with high school students I put the same example: until 10 years ago there were no jobs such as being an Uber driver, App developer, or even Social Media Manager. This is proof that new jobs are appearing every single day, and will keep appearing in the following years. Even now, with the COVID-19 context around us, the changes in the work market are speeding up more than never! A whole planet switching (temporarily) to an online society means that these changes are going to deepen in the next months. Therefore, we should focus on training and job reconversion strategies.
3. Spoiler alert: young people, we’re not in the loop.
All of these studies and reports show and agree that the people who will be affected the most by these changes it’s going to be us: young people. Why us? It’s simple, they are talking about our future. But, there is another problem: we’re not in the loop. High-level academia, Governments, Organizations and the corporate world are all talking about it, but we don’t. We’re not even aware of it.
If it wasn’t because of having to co-design FLOW, I wouldn’t have learned and found out about anything related to the Future of Work. We don’t have easy access to information about it. All of those reports are really long, boring and quite depressing (with those scary titles) for young people.
This problem (which basically is a lack of empathy) brings a challenge, which creates an opportunity: to start talking about it. That is why we created FLOW, we took all of these reports and transformed them into learning experiences, where young students will test and improve their skills, and learn about the trends of FoW. Also, it’s an opportunity to create a space for them to express what they believe of the future, what scares them and which are their hopes and dreams for it.
4. Before educating young people, we have to train teachers first.
Okay, but how do we get students into the topic if teachers aren’t prepared for it? That’s a new challenge that appeared soon after talking to educators. They’re not ready yet, we have to provide them with the tools, knowledge, and skills needed to introduce students into the FoW world.
How do we create accessible and easy content to implement in different contexts? In our case, we created a free replication guide for educators in which they can replicate the FLOW experience in their schools and start bringing the topic into their classrooms.
5. This goes beyond young people too.
We were talking about young people and our future but, what happens with the people that are already part of the workforce and their job is changing right now as we speak? We have to include older people and families into the scope too.
This is where lifelong learning policies come in because it’s a key element for preparing and adapting people to the new context of the job market. Also, many companies are implementing reskilling and upskilling initiatives within their employees and environments. We need Governments, NGOs and the private sector to work collaboratively on designing and creating opportunities for people (especially the most vulnerable and marginalized) to prepare them for these new changes.
My advice is: start now. Look for (new) skills to improve, look for new knowledge to learn and incorporate in your life. We have to be ready for what’s out there waiting for us in the future. As I said, it’s challenging, but it can also be fun.
Ulises Brengi, 22, Argentina, started a youth-empowerment initiative at 16 that focused on recycling in public high schools and works at the Anne Frank House in Buenos Aires to engage young people on human rights.