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Issue 21: 6/19/2023

The Future World of Work

The Future World of Work

While we all understand that nothing ever stays the same, both the recent global pandemic paired with rapid advances in technology have impacted how fast our lives – and particularly our work lives – are changing.

Is change a good thing or a bad thing? Is it possible that often it is neither, but only our reactions to it that are positive or negative?

The educational industry leadership views it the same way: “I see a lot of promise: Anyone who wants to continue their skills, has that opportunity,” said William (Bill) Bussey, executive director of Ohio Technical Centers, a consortium of vocational schools. “We’ve never seen such a demand for skilled labor.”


What is changing the most?

“What is the future of work?” by McKinsey Global Institute reported in January 2023 that job growth is in high-skill jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Other factors at play are e-commerce, environmentally-friendly technologies, and care for the aging population.

Bussey and many experts agree: technology is the piece that is changing the work world the most at the fastest rate.

“Technology has changed our lives and our jobs over the past several years (decades) and I believe that it will continue to change how we do business,” Bussey said. “Technology makes us all more efficient at our jobs and in many cases the tasks workers perform are done in a much safer environment.”

In addition to increasing safety, technology – whether robotics or artificial intelligence (AI) – is ideal for time-intensive and repetitive tasks.


Bussey agreed: “There’s definitely more automation and robotics in industry today. Everything is becoming more efficient. It’s tremendous what’s happening in manufacturing, healthcare, and IT.”

“But I don’t think it’s going to replace any job. I think it’s going to make jobs more efficient,” Bussey said. “I think the skills that a person will need in that area will change.”

Marc Held, CEO of software firm Fishtail, is quoted by Eric Johnson in the February 27, 2023 issue of the Journal of Commerce: “With every generation of technology…it becomes more and more pronounced that there are some things that computers are really good at, and some things that humans are really good at.”

Johnson suggested that automation will work in tandem with humans rather than replace them: Trained employees will manage the automation.

Just as technology will change how work is done, recent factors have influenced where it is done. While some work moved out of the office setting during the global pandemic – and may remain remote in the future – there are some activities that are not as effective or even possible in that environment. The McKinsey report lists negotiations as well as brainstorming as two activities that are more effective in person.


What is not changing?

What makes people different from technology is what makes them valuable: These “human skills” are essential in the work world.

Analyzing information – what it means, what is useful and what is not, and what is misleading/incomplete – is a valuable skill for the future as more and more data is accessible. This critical thinking will be essential as AI is used to gather information. In other words, we will have the ability to use technology to solve problems, but humans will need to identify the value of the information as well as how ethics and rules apply to it.

“Professional skills such as team building and communications have been and will be a focus of all employers,” Bussey said.

“Soft skills or professional skills –your leadership-type skills – some people will say those are hard to teach,” Bussey said. “They are integrated into the curriculum of nearly every program in the Ohio technical schools.”

“Even though an employee might have technical skills, in most cases they have to interview well and work well as a team. Those skills have been critical forever. The need for that has not gone down,” Bussey added.

Experts point out the value of wise management of employees: People want to work where they are trusted, respected, and heard. Emotional intelligence skills of empathy and leadership (encouragement, identifying people’s strengths and weaknesses) are already valuable in the workplace.

Jeanne Meister contributed an article to Forbes in January 2023 that listed the most sought-after skills that employers want, which are all human and not robotic: communication, customer service, leadership, attention to detail, and collaboration.

Meister shared a quote from John Rogers, vice president of strategic accounts and partnerships at Pearson: “We are seeing the level of proficiency in human skills … will be critical to one’s future employability, and underpinning all of this is one’s commitment to continuous learning.”


How to adapt?

If change is a constant in our lives including our work lives, why do people resist it? Experts say that it’s a human condition to fear the unknown. Therefore, being comfortable with taking additional training is also an important skill.

As Vonetta Watson, wrote in the March/April 2023 issue of OfficePro, “Companies…want efficient employees who can quickly adapt to the newest software solutions.” She added that staying up-to-date on technology gives an employee -- and the business or agency -- an advantage.

Taking short-term, flexible training is a way for people and companies to stay current. Certificate programs and non-degree programs are the niche that Ohio technical schools have had for more than 50 years, Bussey said.

“What is currently changing is the realization that a person does not have to have a college degree to be successful,” he said. “Employers will be putting more emphasis on looking for skills that a potential employee has and focus less on requiring an academic degree as a prerequisite for employment.” Many State of Ohio jobs continue to require academic degrees or specific course work as part of their minimum qualifications for employment. UET can assist you in developing your individual skills and attaining formal educational goals. Visit our website for more information: www.uedtrust.org.