It can seem a bit trite to say that we live in changing times; after all, times are always changing, but it could be argued that with advancing technology our changes are happening faster than most. As computer automation and robotics play a greater role in day to day working practices, it raises the question of what this will mean for the future face of employment. How many jobs will not exist by the time the current generation of children leave school? How do we prepare our children for the jobs market of the future? What part should education be playing in preparing students for employment in jobs that don't yet exist? Is it even possible to do so?
When considering the future jobs landscape it's easy to dismiss the possibility of robots replacing human workers as scare-mongering, however we're already beginning to see that happen. Just as the Industrial Revolution saw human craftsmanship replaced by machinery, the Tech Revolution is moving things on again: cashiers are being replaced by computerised self-checkouts, whereby up to a dozen automated service points can be supervised by a single member of staff; travel agents have been slowly disappearing from our high streets, replaced by online enterprises; assembly line workers are becoming a thing of the past as robots can more quickly and efficiently complete the same tasks once handled by multiples of women and men.
In the next twenty years it's feasible that we could lose: taxi drivers as automated cars become a reality; taxi dispatchers as mobile apps a la Uber take over the role; newspaper printing and delivery as everything moves online; referees as video and goal-line technology advance; potentially even the likes of journalists and social media managers could have their day as automated information-gathering software becomes more sophisticated.
Looking further into the future, we might even see the end of the construction and engineering industries as we know them, as 3D printing progresses to such a stage where we are able to print our own homes, shops and domestic tech. Indeed, Oxford University economists Dr Carl Frey and Dr Michael Osborne have gone so far as to predict that by 2050 up to 40% of the jobs we do today will no longer exist as we know them.
So what will become of the next generation of children? Will they live in a blissful socialist world where work is no longer a part of the lexicon because machines can do it all? Or will they struggle to make ends meet as employment becomes the remit of the well-educated few?
Predicting the jobs market of the future and the roles which will likely exist then but can only be imagined now, may come down to a little guesswork and will never be totally precise, but that's not to say that we can't begin to prepare our children now. While schools have no more accurate tools for divination than you or I, they can assist their pupils by helping technology to become as familiar to them as the language they speak. Whatever form future employment takes, you can almost guarantee that coding, programming, robotics, app creation and integration will still play their parts, and the children who know how to do these things today will stand a much better chance of thriving tomorrow; not just working with current technology, but helping to create their own.
We can all help the next generation of kids too. 'Screen time' has become a by-phrase for poor parenting, but in using tablets and phones to make learning fun parents can help their children to grasp the basics of technology. In today's society, that's almost as important as reading and writing.
It's widely acknowledged that the younger you start learning something the better you are likely to become. Technology is no exception. It's time that we all started to help our children prepare for the future they face.
Christopher Cederskog is Managing Director Europe of Wonder WorkshopSuggest a correction