Rethinking the future of work (and learning)

The workplace is changing, and rapidly. Jobs that have been staples of the economy for many generations are likely to be replaced by new digitally automated solutions, whilst the manner in which we engage with work is decentralising from the office to the home and local cafe. The pace of change is likely to have already affected most current workers, through job losses, efficiency drives and relocation, and it therefore demands a rethink in the way in which we reskill ourselves, adjust our working lives, and consider future employment for the next generation. How can mainstream education and lifelong learning opportunities meet this new challenge?

In ‘Welcome to a world without work‘ (Observer, 9th October 2016), Ryan Avent identifies three major driving forces in the employment market. These are through the automation of certain roles (for instance in manufacturing, help centres and transport – see ‘Will a robot take your job“), the globalisation of our workforce and markets, and the increased productivity resulting from technology. The outcomes for this numerous, such as an over abundance of labour, a breaking of the social order around the workplace, and how to redistribute wealth from the few to the many. Others will no doubt emerge in the near future.

Homeworking.How will society respond? Ryan suggests that workers are likely to resist, bringing echoes of the coal mining disputes of the ’80s in the UK. “Either society will find ways to shore up work or develop substitutes for it or workers will use the political system to undermine the forces disrupting their world.” At the same time, we are already experiencing other societal responses in the form of strong employability agendas on all university campus’, a burgeoning lifelong learning industry and increasing opportunities for flexible working. But how can current and future workers be prepared for new and emerging employment market?

Here are six ways to be ready for work in the future:

  1. focus on skills, not subjects – transferable skills are critical for providing the flexibility to adjust to change, not become bound to a single organisation or a single career. They include interpersonal skills, communication skills, critical-thinking skills, presentation skills, IT skills,leadership and numeracy.
  2. learn, learn and relearn – we can no longer rely on our school or university education. As the workplace changes, so should our education. Tailoring our personal learning is critical to remaining relevant and employable.
  3. think of the long-term, work for the short-term – having a long term career strategy is important, but dont rely on rising through the ranks of a large organisation. Just as employers are reducing contract periods, employees can play the game too by finding work opportunities which suit their needs.
  4. be prepared to be flexible – mobile connectivity has now transformed opportunities for flexible working, offering employers less space headaches and a happier workforce, and staff the chance to spending less time communting and more time on the school run.
  5. be connected – communication with colleagues, collaboration with other professionals, and networking across sectors all offer terrific possibilities for remaining in tune with emerging trends and being networked into a global professional community.
  6. find a work-life balance – the fast paced, disruptive nature of emerging work trends requires a renewed focus on maintaining good mental and physical health.


Other useful links.

The skills we need (NewCo Shift)

17 Free Online Learning Sites that Provide High Quality Opportunities (LifeHack)

Should we all be forced to work from home? (Huffington Post)

The rise of flexible working (Virgin)

Skills gaps worsen as employers struggle to recruit and retain talent, finds CIPD (CIPD)

10 questions to assess your future readiness (JimCaroll)

Future Ready symposium (PebblePad)

Flexible working: goodbye to nine to five (Institute of Leadership and Management)


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