How to be Successful in “The Future of Work”

Last week a symposium was held at Stanford University titled “The Future of Work.” Collaborators from Silicon Valley, higher education institutions across the country, and other industry leaders gathered to discuss the impact of advancements in technology, including how higher education will need to react to changing economic needs. Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX and professor at MIT set the stage with his remarks, “by 2030 fifty-percent of jobs will be replaced by robots or some other form of technology. Half the workforce will need to upscale their skills to stay employed.” What skills will be needed and how will students/workers acquire them?

“People skills will be the most durable in our new economy” stated Guy Berger, Chief Economist at LinkedIn. These skills consist of critical thinking, problem solving, and the ability to be agile in your career, allowing you to take on new job opportunities that match your increasing skills set. College majors increasing in demand include computer programming, data science, and engineering.

Anant believes that the quickening pace of technological creation and innovation will support the development of a culture of life-long learning. Schooling will not end with college graduation with a 4-year degree. Anant believes colleges could move toward a subscription model. Like a magazine, each person would subscribe to it, paying a monthly payment, but having the ability to take any courses needed to stay updated in knowledge relevant to their careers.

Farouk Dey, Associate Vice Provost and Dean of Career Education at Stanford University shared Stanford’s 2025 vision for the future of higher education. Termed “Open Loop Education”, students would take a few courses related to their chosen career, then go to work applying what they have learned, returning to school when they need additional knowledge in a never ending cycle. Dey also noted the rise of “Skill Boot Camps”. These 3 to 5 day intense downloads of information is another way for workers to upscale their skills.

These new developments in technology, changes in educational models, and values of the Millennial and Gen Z generations have combined to create the Gig Economy. This is one characterized by short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs. To continue to qualify for these short-term assignments, workers will need to be “experts” in their specialized fields, further endorsing these new education models.

The rise of robots and advancements in areas of artificial intelligence will cause a loss of many current jobs. This shift will also create new careers in a transformed economy. The degree each of us will be successful in this economy will depend on how quickly we become active life-long learners.