Dis­rupt or be dis­rupted

The Amherst News - - OPINION -

An ear­lier gen­er­a­tion of par­ents wor­ried about los­ing their chil­dren to other prov­inces in search of work they couldn’t find at home. To­day’s par­ents have to worry that the jobs them­selves will dis­ap­pear and that their chil­dren have been ed­u­cated for em­ploy­ment in a work world that no longer ex­ists.

That’s the warn­ing is­sued in a new re­port — “Hu­mans Wanted” — re­leased by the Royal Bank of Canada on Mon­day.

The world is go­ing through a skills revo­lu­tion, with many types of jobs doomed to ob­so­les­cence by the rise of au­to­ma­tion and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence.

“The next gen­er­a­tion is en­ter­ing the work­force at a time of pro­found eco­nomic, so­cial and tech­no­log­i­cal change,” RBC pres­i­dent and CEO Dave McKay writes in the re­port. “We know it. Canada’s youth know it. And we’re not do­ing enough about it.”

Af­ter con­duct­ing re­search for a year — talk­ing to em­ploy­ers, ed­u­ca­tors, grad­u­ates and oth­ers — as part of its 10-year com­mit­ment to help pre­pare young Cana­di­ans for the work of the fu­ture, RBC de­ter­mined that more than one quar­ter of Cana­dian jobs will be heav­ily dis­rupted by tech­nol­ogy in the next decade, and half of all po­si­tions will re­quire a sig­nif­i­cant skills re­boot.

It also found that while uni­ver­si­ties are good at turn­ing out grad­u­ates with solid knowl­edge of their ar­eas of study, they don’t nec­es­sar­ily have the skills that will be in high­est de­mand in the near fu­ture.

“Statis­tics Canada projects that 15 per cent of re­cent school leavers will go into re­tail sales or food and bev­er­age work, as cashiers, food counter at­ten­dants or kitchen help between 2015 and 2024,” the re­port states. “Those ar­eas cur­rently make up only eight per cent of the job mar­ket and are ripe for more au­to­ma­tion. If we can’t get that in­for­ma­tion to stu­dents when they’re mak­ing choices about the skills they’re choos­ing to de­velop, they won’t thrive in a skills econ­omy.”

So, what can be done to pre­pare young peo­ple for jobs that might not even ex­ist yet?

RBC says ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions and em­ploy­ers should start teach­ing and hir­ing based on skills that can be adapted and up­graded and used in dif­fer­ent types of work; peo­ple who are solvers (heav­ily re­liant on crit­i­cal think­ing skills), and providers (whose work re­quires an­a­lyt­i­cal skills) are at least risk of los­ing their jobs in the skills revo­lu­tion.

RBC says ac­knowl­edg­ing the re­al­ity of what lies ahead for young peo­ple gives them a chance to seize the op­por­tu­nity, but the prep work needs to start in school.

The re­port con­tains a call to ac­tion, urg­ing pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments to in­clude ca­reer plan­ning and foun­da­tional skills in the K to 12 cur­ric­ula, and all post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions to com­mit to work/learn­ing place­ments for 100 per cent of their undergraduates.

It’s a big chal­lenge, but not as big as the one the coun­try will face if we do noth­ing to pre­pare young peo­ple for the in­evitable.

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