Can Today’s Students Succeed at the Jobs of Tomorrow?

Will the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence in the workplace eventually rob today’s students of tomorrow’s careers? The question has become a growing concern among experts and researchers in the education and technology arena. In fact, earlier this month, a survey from the Pew Research Center of 1,408 experts in the field found that a full one-third of them believed that education systems would not evolve enough within the next 10 years to prepare workers for future jobs.

It may sound alarmist, but the reality is that yes, many roles and many industries will be affected.

In fact, the Pew research report states that, “Automation, robotics, algorithms, and artificial intelligence in recent times have shown they can do equal or sometimes even better work than humans who are dermatologists, insurance claims adjusters, lawyers, seismic testers, sports journalists, and financial reporters,” among others fields many of us would not think to be in jeopardy.

The challenge, therefore, becomes what can be done now to stem the tide. As many have said, great challenges also present great opportunities. While some skills—or even entire industries—evolve into greater automation, there will be a vibrant repositioning of labor into jobs, services, and fields that do not even exist today.

And there is reason to be optimistic. The Pew Research report also states that many of their expert respondents highlighted, “the human talents they believe machines and automation may not be able to duplicate,” noting that these should be the skills developed and nurtured by education and training programs to prepare people to work successfully alongside robotics and artificial intelligence.

Simply put, “The times, they are a-changing.”

While job training has been the hallmark of community and technical colleges for decades, too often efforts have lagged behind innovation and insights into the future. As the workforce evolves at breakneck speed, the immediate focus for graduates must be to master and leverage the skills required to first hit the ground running, and then to fly. 21st century skill training is an expanded burden that schools must carry—educators not only need to predict the disciplines, but also guide students in the more calculated, nuanced skills that professionals used to acquire over time, or perhaps not at all.

The good news? The skills of tomorrow can and will be internalized and delivered by students today through forward-thinking education. By teaching talents, not tasks, that will transfer from one industry to another, and in ways that are as nimble as tomorrow’s workplace is expected to be.

Rather than focus around the specific individual responsibility, the role of today’s factory worker is to build, optimize, and improve the processes. This requires decisiveness, instinct, imagination, collective problem solving and a multi-disciplined education with a heavy focus on tech literacy, agility and leadership/organizational skills. Educators must create learning environments that provide the tools to educate comprehensively and to operate independently. Teamwork is as important a skill as welding. Design concepts are not required to operate a machine, but will enable a machine operator to understand why the machine does what is does, and is as crucial as machine operation.

Flexibility and transferability are critical. The new economy demands arming students with the talents that will empower them to spread their expertise across an array of industries over the life of their career because those skills will transfer, as strict tradecraft could not. From K-12 to higher education, instructors must design programs so that they create a pathway to employment for students.

It has been said time and again, “necessity is the mother of invention.” Our society, economy and workforce are sprinting into uncharted territory as never before and so as a matter of pure necessity, our educational institutions must lead and not chase.

Today, it is critically important to teach students to succeed in a modern workforce with a broader skill-set of knowledge and capabilities. We must capitalize on the advantages of new technology to our benefit—not detriment. This is a time of great change, but also tremendous opportunity. If we keep our eyes on the horizon, we will put the current and next generation of students on a course to employment and career success.

Ido Yerushalmi

Ido Yerushalmi is the CEO of Intelitek, a position he has held since 2014. Intelitek transforms education across the globe through comprehensive technology learning solutions. Our innovative tools and technologies empower instructors and inspire students to improve the world around them. We understand the changing needs of your career and technology classrooms and design flexible solutions that meet those needs. Our sustainable support and professional development ensure the continued success of educational programs. By helping to deliver the competencies needed for in-demand careers, we are producing results for students, teachers, nations and economies.