A Different Future Awaits Young People Today

17/06/2016 11:56

The impact of the digital revolution, or the fourth industrial revolution as many are now calling it, will be profound. The world is moving at breakneck speed. All organisations are looking at how they can digitally transform themselves to keep up with customer demand, business expectations and compete globally. As a result the number and nature of jobs is set to change dramatically. In his recent report 'The Digital Revolution', Chair of the Edge Foundation Lord Kenneth Baker, cites that the Bank of England estimates that up to 15 million jobs are at risk from technology and automation in 2015.

So how do we prepare our young people for tomorrow's economy, a pace of change that even we are struggling to keep abreast off, and how do we help them maximise the infinite possibilities that are there for the taking?

I believe that too many schools and universities are still too focused on an old fashioned and outdated method of teaching and learning. Instead, far more focus should be put into active learning, technical entrepreneurship skills and personal and collaborative skills rather than the passive learning methods still favoured today.

This is the best way to prepare the next generation to adapt to accelerated levels of change in this new developing digital age.

Today change can come in ten months, ten weeks, and even ten days -a three year old iPhone for example is now already obsolete. The rate of change is also accelerating in education. It has been estimated that nearly 50% of subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree is out of date by the time the student graduates.

The agents for this change are also constantly multiplying. Think about the technologies out there right now such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, big data, mobile, the internet of things, drones, augmented reality and so on. By next year, probably by next month, this list will be even longer.

Equally, experimentation and innovation is now accessible to everyone, not just official research centres. Significant changes can be made by talented people in their own homes, offices and factories. The ability of small teams of people to device new uses, new products and new services has never been greater than it is today.

Substantial amounts of monies are also being invested in all these new technologies. In fact, there is no shortage of capital for this technological revolution. One consequence of this will be massive reduction in the need for labour. In 2014 $6.5 billion was invested in on-demand start-ups - 10 times the level of 2013.

So what will this mean for future jobs for young people?

There will certainly be a hollowing out of the labour market and unfortunately right now there are more graduates in the market than ever before. Tony Blair's policy that 50% of young people should go into higher education followed a view that with more graduates so supply and demand would rise in parallel. Unfortunately this has not been the case and large numbers of graduates find themselves under employed, specifically in the arts, social sciences, humanities and law. This situation is less so for graduates in the STEM disciplines. The need for technical and practical skills will not disappear in this digital revolution. In some cases demand will increase because we need more people to create and operate digital and automated systems. That said, the way we work will change.

Knowledge is still as necessary as ever, but it is not enough. Abstract knowledge and reasoning need to be connected with the real world through practical application. For example a play assumes certain meaning when read silently, more when it is read out loud, and more again when it is performed. The same is true of maths, physics, art, music, design, technology and so on - all come to life when used in a meaningful way.