Disrupt or be disrupted
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.