How do we prepare young people for 2030 and beyond?

The Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) threw delegates unapologetically into the future to understand the skills needed by 2030.

VR experience
In a new addition to the annual March conference in Dubai, this year’s event featured The Boardroom and a Future Zone to specifically look at employability, technology and sustainable skills for the workplace.

Education and the future of technology

Kick-starting proceedings, an esteemed panel chaired by Lord Jitesh Gadhia including CBI’s managing director Neil Carberry, Saadia Zahidi, head of education, gender and work at the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Dr Reuben Abraham, CEO of the IDFC Institute discussed the urgency to address the future needs of the workplace.Abraham started off by explaining the risk factors associated with new technologies and why “future proofing students” is now more crucial than ever.“We have always had a fear of new technology, even as far back as the industrial revolution, but those fears have been largely unfounded, so why is it different now? Well, it’s the speed in which technology has come to the fore. The risk factor we are dealing with is on a grand economic; political and social level.”So what skills does the future workforce need to learn? Point blank, Abraham added “young people who are going to be successful have to be comfortable with data and data complexity.”
GESF table discussion

Critical thinking 

But despite the GESF buzz around new technologies, Zahidi recalled a recent WEF report revealing a rise in demand for human skills among 15 economies across 10 different industries.“We were expecting to see a real rise in demand for technical, STEM and digital skills but instead what we got back in the aggregate was a much greater premium on creativity-based skills such as critical thinking and collaboration,” she added. “Yes, we’re in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution but that might make our human skills more important than ever before.” Other desirable skills for 2030 were noted to include computational thinking, entrepreneurialism and analytical skills. However, Zahidi noted the importance of technology to the gig economy and its role in facilitating women and young people to enter the workforce and work more flexibly. As well as the potential use of big data to more precisely inform education and skills strategies going forward.
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Lifelong learning

Another area of focus was “lifelong learning”. Speaking for industry, Carberry spoke of some of the challenges for businesses around professional development and integration. “We’ve seen in the 80s and 90s what happens when parts of countries leap ahead and others are left behind”.Carberry added that the biggest challenge for most corporates would be to “truly integrate people into the new economy” and consistently develop people across all regions, not just the main cities or where their offices are located. “It’s important for companies to do their part as you can’t expect the state to pick that up and keep up and that is, thankfully, really starting to happen.”Positive on technology’s role in the future. Carberry warned against seeing technology as an existential threat. 
He added, “If you look at countries like Germany and the work that’s being done there, you can see that what we’re creating now is potentially a world that can offer young people more jobs, and better jobs. That’s because we’re transitioning to a world where most jobs are jobs of choice, not jobs of process. If the robots are good at processing – let’s let them do that.”While the panel agreed that preparing young people for the future as young as possible was a necessity, an outdated school curriculum was highlighted as a key obstacle. “Outdated curricula and regulations are not being updated quick enough for new technologies – we need to keep up or decentralise the process,” added some members of the boardroom.
GESF entrance

Technology – education’s great equaliser?

Other challenges raised and for the meantime unresolved included issues around signalling. With many in the boardroom agreeing that education is incredibly hard to disrupt and still conservatively approached. For example, the notion that a place at an elite institution will guarantee a level of success. Perhaps a highly technological future will help ensure that education remains the great equaliser? Klaus Schwab, founder of the WEF, once said: “In the future, talent, more than capital, will represent the critical factor of production.” As GESF regular and former UK prime minister Tony Blair, told GESF delegates, “The next generation of technology will revolutionise the world and change the way we do everything, including education and the way we learn. If we’re prepared to grasp the opportunities, the latest generation of technology can transform public services and the workplace dramatically. It is also going to displace some people and we need to rethink our economic and industrial strategy as a result of it.”For more GESF 2018 coverage, including the future of schools and the role of AI and robotics in education, don’t miss the next issue of Relocate Global.Find out who won the Relocate Awards 2018 new category: Inspiring Future Careers – Best Employer & School(s) Initiative, celebrate best practice and network at the Relocate Awards Gala Dinner on 10 May, book here.


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