The future of jobs

According to the World Economic Forum’s Jobs Report, within the next five years, most companies will begin to reduce the number of workers and replace them with robots and automation software. The chief economist for the Bank of England predicted that there might be as many as 80 million jobs being automated within the next five years, especially in Asia, Africa, and South America where half of the existing jobs will be fully automated.

There are different opinions about automation, some people believe that even some people will lose their jobs, but new jobs will be created. Other people think robots will destroy more jobs than the number of new jobs they create and more people will be unemployed. Of course, nobody knows what exactly how many jobs will be gone but the fact is many jobs will be automated especially labor jobs. I believe that automation will happen in several steps. Labor jobs will be automated first then office jobs and others that can be automated. The question is the time at which it happens. If you work in a factory, it going to take about a year or two for automation to happen. If you work in an office, it may take another four years for automation to happen. However, it will happen whether you like it or not. Knowing this timeframe, it is important for you to be prepared and if possible, change your job into something that has a better future.

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According to the Global Economic report, by 2020, there will be over seven million technical jobs open but not enough skilled workers to fill. That means every company is looking for skilled workers and competition among countries will be fierce. This information is a good opportunity for many students but the questions are how many students know of this information and how many of them know which skills are in high demand? While many high school graduates are planning to go to college, how many of them are receiving proper career advice to build a career plan to help guide them to their learning and developing the needed skills? How many of them would select a field of study based on what the global job market needs? And how many of them would finish college with the proper skills?

I think it is urgent for the school to focus on technical skills training to prepare students for these high demand jobs. We need to have a majority of students coming out of high school with some proper skills right away whether they are going to college or not. Before graduating from high school, all students must know at least one programming language such as Java or Python and know how to apply technology to their job. They should be taught to develop some soft skills such as collaboration, communication, and teamwork as well as work ethics so they can function well in all future works, regardless of where they work. When we have more students with technical skills, it will benefit more local companies as they also have to apply technologies in their operation. For many years, I have advocated for more Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) classes, and for using more technology in K-12 schools and colleges as these are what the future of work actually is.

To prepare for the future, we need to start now by knowing how many children are going to elementary school ready to learn? and by third grade, how many of them meet grade-level standards in math and science? How many high school students are familiar with technology? How many of them know how to apply technology in their works? How many of them know at least one programming language? How many students are going to college with a written career plan, knowing what they want to do and what skills they need to learn in classes? Unless we can measure these simple data, we can break it down to a level that is actionable then we can making improvement progress for our students so they are ready for the jobs of the future.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University

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