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How to Prepare for the Future of Work

Look at a recruitment firm’s website today and you’ll see jobs advertised for a Social Media Manager, an App Developer, even Uber drivers: jobs which just ten years ago didn’t exist. The world of work is constantly changing, and in the last few decades this change has been rapid. The iPhone was launched in 2007. Now nearly half the world’s population have a Smartphone. Other advancements in machine learning and robotics have been equally prolific. Take a look at Amazon’s new robots in use at their fulfilment plants across the US as just one example! All these new advancements have had dramatic changes on the job market, both by taking away traditional jobs like those in Amazon’s warehouse, but also in creating new ones like social media marketing, software engineering, and even the mechanics needed to fix Amazon’s robots.

The question is, if such a rate of change is likely to continue, as many experts believe it will, how do we prepare ourselves for the future and protect our employability when statistics show that 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet? Trying to predict the future is of course fraught with difficulty and unlikely to be entirely successful. I’m still waiting for my 2015 hoverboard Marty McFly promised me in Back to the Future II… Nevertheless there are clues today that hint at what the general trend of technological change might be in the next decade, and how this might affect the world of work. Take, for example, the CES conference in Las Vegas. Manufacturers feature everything from driverless cars to smart fridges, but the overarching feature in many of these upcoming products is AI – Artificial Intelligence.

The rise of AI and its impact on jobs

Machine learning and artificial intelligence are rapidly developing technological fields and their integration with existing technology like smartphones, and increasingly with other previously ‘un-smart’ tech like cars, fridges and cookers is becoming more common each day. The emergence of AI tools like ChatGPT, Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, Dall-E, GPT-4, and others, demonstrates the extent of these advancements. Tech experts tell us this is going to enhance our lives and homes, making our interaction with devices around us more seamless and integrated; it also may well put many of us out of a job. If machines can learn to perform tasks that currently only humans can, and perform them to a higher standard, then why would an employer choose a human over a machine?

What skills are future-proof?

It’s not all doom and gloom though. We may well be out of that job, but there will always be jobs that robots and machines cannot do, not least servicing, monitoring and repairing the machines themselves.

The types of jobs that machines most struggle with are those involving creativity, imagination, and strategic, long-term planning. They are great at optimising and making tactical decisions, but a wider awareness and creativity is something that we humans still have the edge over.

This means that it’s our soft skills that are best preparation for the jobs of the future. People management and relationship building are capabilities that machines lack; thus, refining your soft skills and preparing high school students for the future workplace may prove vital in securing a successful career in the ever-evolving job market.

Navigating a changing job market landscape

It’s not just the type of job that we’ll need to adapt to in the job market of tomorrow, but actually the type of job market itself.

The gig economy and a changeable working environment

The ‘gig economy’ has become synonymous with the 2010s, with Uber and Deliveroo creating their whole business models around offering this kind of work. Many commentators expect this style of employment to expand and continue in the coming years. From a student’s perspective on the future of technology, I’m not sure I agree, as I think the gig economy is symptomatic of the stagnant economic period that followed the Great Recession of 2008. Once the global economy finally begins to boom once more, supply for jobs will exceed demand, and so companies will offer more secure employment in order to attract workers. However, whatever happens to the job market, change is inevitable and so being adaptable to a changeable working environment is crucial in preparing for the jobs of tomorrow.

Why entrepreneurship could be a safe bet for the future of work

If you can’t seem to secure your job for the future, is to make yourself a new one: become an entrepreneur. With globalisation and technology continuing to change the world of work, and ultimately reduce the number of jobs, more and more people are going to need to become entrepreneurs to earn a living.

Entrepreneurs are innovators, something machines are a very long way of being so your job will be secure for a long while yet.  Not only that but technology and automation can open up whole new entrepreneurial opportunities, businesses that wouldn’t have been viable in the past either because of lack of market for them or because they would have needed too many employees so couldn’t be profitable.

Embracing change and future-proofing your career

The key to success when preparing for the jobs of the future is not to be scared of technology and change, but rather to embrace it, capitalise on it, and use it to your advantage. This approach is also crucial to help high school students choose a career that matters. Yes jobs that exist today may be obsolete in ten years time, but many jobs will be created over the next ten years that don’t exist today. If you react to the changes and are willing to change with the system, then you can actually take advantage of them.

Returning to the case of Amazon’s fulfilment robots, when they were introduced no employees were laid off. Instead, they were offered the chance to change their expertise and learn to work in maintaining the robots, working with the robots. Through this process the employees learned new skills and improved their employability for the future. Embrace change and capitalise on being human. That is how you prepare for the jobs of the future.

Invest in an education around emerging technologies early on

One of the best ways to embrace change and develop the necessary skills is to invest in your education early on. Oxford Scholastica Academy offers innovative programs like the Technology Summer School and Computer Science Summer School, specifically designed for teens and high school students. These Oxford Summer School programs not only provide you with a strong foundation in emerging technologies, but also help you become adaptable and ready to thrive in the ever-evolving job market. Seize the opportunity to learn and grow, and set yourself up for a successful future in the world of technology.