Math will be important for 70 per cent of new jobs and the number one sector for productivity and growth is in agriculture said a trend expert. Will there be enough workers to fill labour needs in agriculture and technology?
Not if students, employers and educational institutions don’t reskill for the exponential age suggested John Stackhouse, a featured speaker at a thought-provoking session called Reskilling for the 21st Century.
“We need the return of human gumption and work-integrated learning,” said Stackhouse. Meanwhile, Hans van der Loo, a fellow forward-thinker for the session, believed a focus on technology needs to be coupled with a return to human kindness.
Many absorbing ideas and concepts were presented during the thought-provoking session at the 2018 Rural Talks to Rural (R2R) Conference held in Blyth in October by Stackhouse and van der Loo.
Stackhouse interprets trends in his role as Senior Vice-President of the Office of the CEO at Royal Bank Canada (RBC). Hans van der Loo, the Ambassador for the European Union’s STEM Coalition, promotes civilized intentionality to progressive learning and labour.
Following their presentations, a panel of four local entrepreneurs and business specialists had a discussion where they presented practical ways to implement those ideas.
The result had the packed audience contemplating the future of education, labour and productivity to meet a changing rural landscape.
“We have technology all over our farms but need people with skills to use that technology,” said Stackhouse, who presented facts from a year-long, RBC, cross-Canada study called “Humans Wanted” which examined how Canadian youth can thrive in the age of disruption.
The future of the workforce will change with the creation of over 2.4 million jobs in the next four years, stated Stackhouse. The jobs will revolve around technology. In that time, 50 per cent of existing jobs will face “significant disruption” meaning the skills needed for those jobs will be very different. The key to adapting to both scenarios is to teach foundational skills, developing a diversity of skills to promote complex problem solving and critical thinking.
His statement that math skills will be critical to most future jobs was met with groans. “You don’t have to be a mathematician but you will need to understand the language of numbers,” he said.
Other skills the workforce will need include cultural awareness and skills mobility.
“Our future is shaped by a complex, messy world and we need to interact and communicate with that world,” said Stackhouse. He referenced the hiring of engineers by a water purification company who then had to hire a counsellor to teach the engineer how to be sensitive to cultural differences. They lacked awareness how to communicate and negotiate with people from very different backgrounds.
Skills mobility will be more important than geographical mobility as jobs become mobile and require clusters of skills. Jobs can be divided into six categories: doers, crafters, technicians, facilitators, providers and solvers.
“Each of those clusters requires 35 or more skills but you will be able to move around your cluster by adding skills in your work life,” he said.
For instance, mining is being taken over by robotic labour. However, by adding a few new skills, miners could move within their technician cluster to become electricians, which has a low degree of automation loss.
The skill culture of solvers (computing specialists, big data analysts, engineers, judges) will face the biggest shortage of workers in the next four years.
It may sound like bad news but it isn’t. It’s a refocus toward life-long learning, hiring for skills over credentials and work-integrated learning.
It requires a shift of thinking.
RBC offers co-operative learning opportunities to 2,500 students per year. “We don’t see them as worker bees. We see them as transformation agents,” said Stackhouse. “We put them on teams to solve problems because the banking industry is going through profound change. Turning to students in the co-op program helps us see things we might not see on our own.”
Co-op students vary from art students to musicians to engineers. They are encouraged to participate in pitch sessions from which RBC has filed 15 patents.
Education needs to become more cooperative, he said, citing the example of Shopify which partners with Carleton University. Students go to school in the morning, work in the afternoon, earning a wage and a degree in the process. “It makes Carlton better. It makes Shopify better. It makes students excellent.”
Education institutions will need to commit to more internships and cooperative education to merge the three T’s: talent, trade and technology.
“Technology on its own cannot do anything. It needs humans who are willing to invest their talent in trade.”
Talent was a theme the next speaker, Hans van der Loo ran with as he talked about the STEM Coalition with its focus on sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“I have been working on the talent pipeline since 2004,” said van der Loo. “Talent is not an end. It is a means to arrive at the other end of our century in a peaceful and civilized way.”
Talent is the most precious resource we have, believes van der Loo. It is our collective responsibility to see that talent is adequately developed.
Talent will outlast what he describes as “the fossil fuel party we have been throwing for the past 150 years.” That party is going to end soon. The only way to survive it in a peaceful and civilized way is to:
• Be less short-sighted. “Don’t look back over the last 30-40 years. They were exceptional and abnormal. Look further back to what normal is.”
• Use sySTEMic thinking. “Critical and logical thinking is not more important than the arts, but it is where the shortage of jobs will be – it is out weakest link – so we need to work on that.”
The struggle is that we need to educate our youth for jobs that do not yet exist to deal with problems we are not yet aware of.
Teaching them science, technology, engineering and math skills acts as a catalyst for switching on the values of other skills, said van der Loo.
However, not enough students are choosing to focus on these areas. In order to attract students to these areas, EU members of STEM Coalition have set up a triple helix system of education that links government, schools and enterprise.
“This is the key factor of success,” believes van der Loo.
He shared the success of Jet-Net, a joint initiative of leading Dutch technology companies (Shell, Philips, DSM, AkzoNobel and Unilever) who partnered with 180 pre-university schools and 90 technology companies. Students go to guest lectures, workshops, company visits, career days, innovation challenges and project weeks to get exposure to the culture of technology.
“Experiencing technology is the best way to promote it,” said van der Loo. By adding practical content to the educational environment, students see that technology is challenging, meaningful and socially relevant. The result is: they choose it.
Van der Loo hopes partnerships like Jet-Net will flourish around the world to prepare the emerging workforce to meet the jobs of the future.
“Currently two out of 10 students choose technological studies,” said van der Loo. “We need at least four out of 10 to choose sciences, maths and technologies.”
Ultimately, students need to learn how to learn. Combine that with talent, and the future looks bright. ◊