It’s common knowledge today that technology will drastically change the workforce of tomorrow. Companies will face changes to the way they do business as humans increasingly engage with automation and artificial intelligence in the workplace. Data literacy will be required in a range of industries and at all levels of employment. To remain relevant, we need to the refine soft skills that machines don’t have, but we must also learn how to work with the technologies we use. It will be crucial for individuals to understand and analyze large amounts of data to adequately manage the technologies of tomorrow.
This changing world of work requires us to re-think how the education system in the United States prepares students for the job market. Currently, high school students develop a range of skills in the arts and sciences, but most schools do not offer data literacy classes beyond basic computer science. The lack of focus on data-related skills in academic institutions will likely lead to two phenomena:
This low percentage of data literate youth indicates that today’s young adults are not receiving enough training in how to read and analyze data. If this rate continues among youth in Generation Z, most of the future workforce will lack essential data analysis skills needed to work with machines and artificial intelligence in the next 10 to 15 years. Because data-dependent occupations will be among those with the highest productivity, the impact of data illiteracy will likely undermine the growth potential of the American economy.
Source: Lead with Data: How to Drive Data Literacy in the Enterprise, Qlik, 2018
As we move into a data-driven world, individuals of all levels of education and work experience should be prepared for a different kind of workplace. A 2018 survey by Censuswide and Qlik shows that young adults are not data confident and proficient despite having grown up in a digital world. 21% of 16- to 24-year-olds rank themselves as data literate. This low number indicates that most youth are unprepared to take on jobs that will require increasingly higher levels of data-related skills, which is due partly to a lack of academic and job training in data literacy. Being able to read, analyze and argue points derived from data is a pillar of today’s working world, and youth, as well as people who already employed, will need to develop a new level of comfort with data analysis and management to remain relevant in the workforce.
The future of work will be influenced not only by automation but also by other six key trends, according to Pearson’s report “The Future of Skills – Employment in 2030” (check the exhibit below). Facing fears about the high risk of automation for 47% of U.S. workers’ jobs and also other trends like growing disparities in education and social services, it would be important to ensure that the youngest generation is provided with the proper education.
Key trends determining the future of work
The question is this: Will the linear model of “Education – Employment – Career” be sufficient for the workforce of the future? The “Solving Future Skills Challenges” report by Universities UK provides a clear “No,” highlighting requirements for a new-and-improved education model: one that offers better collaboration between educators and employers and for efforts made by governments to adopt a whole-skills approach. As the demand for a high level of skills across a range of industries increases, there is a risk that there will be an insufficient supply of adequately-skilled individuals to take up these jobs.
It’s hard to disagree with John R. Allen’s statement that well-trained and educated youth will fuel the engines of future geopolitical success. In coming decades, people will greatly depend on the primacy of hi-technologies and artificial intelligence. This dependency underscores the need for improvement of skills-focused courses taught in schools, universities, colleges and other academic institutions.
Our increasing dependence on technology puts at risks lower-skilled and repetitive tasks that can be easily automated by machines. With this change also comes a greater demand for technical systems skills, higher-order cognitive skills and interpersonal skills. “The Future of Skills” report by Pearson made the following conclusions about future changes to the U.S. workforce:
The workforce composition according to future demand for occupations in United States
According to the report, the occupations that are projected to grow are teachers, personal care workers, business operations specialists, engineers and construction trades workers. Roles such as sales engineers and real estate agents are anticipated to increase as well, despite the predicted fall in general sales occupations which account for a high number of occupations in the United States. Followed by retail sales, the occupations that are most likely to decrease are those impacted by technological and digital changes such as woodworkers, rail transportation workers and production occupation workers. What is more, financial clerks are among the largest groups that are likely to decline; the reason being that the impact of automation is trespassing on more cognitively-advanced tasks. 71.7% of roles have no certain future at this time, which indicates that growth can be driven only by occupation re-design along with workforce training.
Analysis of the relationship between skills and abilities as well as future demand for certain occupations in the United States demonstrates that the most important skills will be those related to decision-making and creativity, learning strategies and social perceptiveness, as well as the fluency of ideas and the clarity of speech. Subjects such as psychology and sociology will also become more important as value is increasingly placed on human-to-human communication and empathy.
Most significant factors to drive future demand for occupations in United States
Upskill teaching staff. Education facilitators will be the flywheel that initiates when it comes to reshaping the American education system in terms of data literacy. One example of how educators are successfully training students can be found at Lakeside Private School in Seattle, WA. The school reorganized its curriculum to prioritize teaching students to coexist with artificial intelligence and solve complex problems. Faculty and students are working together to develop a list of future-proof skills that will most benefit students. They will not only learn programming in math class but also soft and non-technical skills like creativity and adaptability which are in high demand by companies, according to a recent study “The Skills Companies Need Most in 2019” conducted by LinkedIn. This collaborative initiative will dispose of certain assignments, subjects and teaching styles that will not prepare students for the workforce.
Universities UK. “Solving Future Skills Challenges”. August 2018. Available at: https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/reports/Pages/solving-future-skills-challenges.aspx.
Qlik and Censuswide Survey. “How to Drive Data Literacy with the Enterprise: Data Literacy Report”. Qlik and Censuswide. 2018. Available at: https://www.qlik.com/us/bi/data-literacy-report.
Wadell, Kaveh. “Rebooting high school.” Axios. March 2019. Available at: https://www.axios.com/rebooting-high-schools-future-jobs-5366f9f5-1aed-4878-81d6-77992281f205.html.
Bakhshi, Hasan, et al. “The future of skills: Employment in 2030”. Pearson, 2017. Available at: https://futureskills.pearson.com/research/assets/pdfs/technical-report.pdf.
Allen, John R. “Why we need to rethink education in the artificial intelligence age”. Brookings Institute. January 2019. Available at: https://www.brookings.edu/research/why-we-need-to-rethink-education-in-the-artificial-intelligence-age/#footnote-1.
Petrone, Paul. “The Skills Companies Need Most in 2019 – And How to Learn Them”. Linkedin – The Learning Blog. January 2019. Available at: https://learning.linkedin.com/blog/top-skills/the-skills-companies-need-most-in-2019--and-how-to-learn-them
Wadell, Kaveh. “Training unlikely techies. Axios. March 2019. Available at: https://www.axios.com/job-training-tech-catalyte-techtonic-b7451a9f-ea10-4126-8b02-4ecabf752e72.html