A Brave New Workplace – Part 2

A look ahead for today’s students and their counsellors

When job titles such as agriculture drone pilot and smart highway traffic manager become commonplace, it will suffice to say, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Like Dorothy who awoke to unfamiliar surroundings in the Land of Oz, today’s high school students will emerge from educational settings into a work world reinvented — one where  vehicles drive themselves, robotics continues to push human workers aside, and Big Data is a big thing.

And that creates a dilemma — not only for high school students but also for the counsellors to whom students (and their parents) look for guidance in choosing their post high school path.

With that in mind, Canadian School Counsellor consulted experts who have made it their mission to study emerging trends and consider what those trends could mean for education and jobs in Canada five years out. We are pleased to share their insights in this second installment of our two-part series. (You can read Part l in the Winter 2016 issue.)

What’s Big Data?

If Big Data is not yet on your careers radar screen, it soon will be. According to futurist Jim Carroll and career development researcher Sean Lyons, it’s one of the best bets for employment opportunities now and in the future.

“Dealing with data at an incredibly large volume requires different skills, but it appears to be at the forefront for a lot of future employment,” says Lyons, a professor in the College of Business and Economics at the University of Guelph.

All sorts of employers are in the market for Big Data analysts and even more will be. Those jobs rely on human ingenuity to analyze, see patterns and understand the value of all the data that people create in their everyday lives by using cellphones, social media, debit or credit cards, a GPS and so on.

“The Census as we know it today may no longer be needed because we can just track people by the massive amount of data they generate by using technology. That data will inform government programs, education, and consumer services and goods,” Lyons advises. 

The ups and downs

According to the 2016 World Economic Forum report, The Future of Jobs, significant employment growth will occur through 2020 in the engineering, architecture, computer and mathematical job families since that knowledge applies across industries.

Expansion in occupations and industries related to the growing elderly population is also expected as life expectancy continues to rise. Rather than continuing to build more assisted living facilities, Carroll predicts technology will play a big role in developing systems that will enable elderly people to continue to live safely in their own homes.

He also envisions that many different industries will put drones in the air to gather information. Insurance companies could fly drones over disaster zones, while the agriculture industry could survey and monitor crop and soil conditions.  The result will be a demand not only for drone pilots and technicians, but also data analysts.

As we move towards 2020, the biggest employment downturn will be in office and administrative categories, says The Future of Jobs report. Manufacturing and production jobs will continue to decline as robotics does more of the heavy lifting and precision work. 

Jobs will also disappear related to products and services focussed on the dwindling youth demographic. People are having fewer children and having them later in life, resulting in a general decline in the proportion of the population that is youth-aged.

“Our (employment) expectations based on what the labour market used to look like have to be abolished,” Lyons says.

In reality, the Canadian labour market has already changed, he asserts, with companies perpetually downsizing, outsourcing jobs and moving labour offshore as a way to stay competitive globally. This will continue to result in much less job security in the future. It also makes it difficult to pinpoint which industries will have significant employment opportunities in future since companies can turn to technology or offshore labour to grow.

Learning for a living

Lyons, who advises first-year Guelph students on education and employment goals, believes that the only career planning that’s possible these days is to build a portfolio of skills, learn as much as possible and network to increase the breadth of your resources.

“I do sympathize with high school counsellors because there’s a lot of pressure to give the right advice, but at the same time there’s so much uncertainty. I know they do the best to steer people in the right direction education-wise based on their abilities.

“The key really is to encourage the mindset that you’re never going to be done learning new skills and looking for new opportunities until you retire,” Lyons says.

Carroll concurs.

“Learning is what most adults will do for a living in the twenty-first century,” he says, quoting educator Lewis Perelman.

“What that says to me is that the knowledge I have today is not going to be adequate for what I need to do tomorrow. Employers will be looking for people who have the ability to obtain the right knowledge or skills at the right time for the right purpose. This will define your future success,” Carroll suggests.

When the Mississauga-based futurist delivers keynote speeches for major companies and organizations, he tries to impress upon his audiences how quickly every industry is changing, how fast new careers are emerging and how rapidly business models are changing.

Twenty-first century skills

That’s why Lyons believes that students today should look at their degree as a starting point rather than as the foundation for a career that moves in one direction. The key, he says, is to work on understanding the value of education and the skills it can provide, and to seize opportunities to gain new perspectives and experiences.

“These days, there’s more of a push to teach people the technical things they need to get their first job, but what we’re hearing from employers is they want transferable competencies, those twenty-first century skills that are necessary for long-term adaptability — critical thinking, problem solving, analytical and communication skills, adaptability, ability for continuous learning, and a framework for understanding technology,” Lyons says. “If people find themselves stuck because they don’t have those extra skills, then we are not preparing them well for the future.”

By: Laurie Nealin

10 + 10 from futurist Jim Carroll

What’s trending?

  • autonomous vehicles
  • smart homes
  • rapid urbanization
  • intelligent eyewear
  • hyper-connected sports equipment
  • programmable weather
  • vertical farms
  • aging population/longevity
  • connected agriculture
  • smart medicine

Jobs of the future

  • smart highway traffic manager
  • 3-D printer clothing designer
  • outer space tour guide
  • smart packaging advertising manager
  • remote sports performance analyst
  • vertical farming infrastructure manager
  • micro-weather programmer
  • healthcare robot manager
  • agriculture drone data analyst
  • computer hacker anti-hacker

Finger on the pulse

Keep up-to-date with the latest in education and employment trends. Follow Sean Lyons on Twitter @proflyons and visit Jim Carroll’s website www.jimcarroll.com