Future Of Work In Context With Higher Education

In these uncertain yet exciting times, change becomes the only constant. Having only one job for your entire career is a thing of the past. To survive and thrive in the future, one has to keep learning and acquiring a wide array of skills pervasively.

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In today’s VUCA world, rapid changes in information and technology are driving our life and impacting the way we communicate, think, create and seek information and knowledge. Technology has become an integral part of our daily life so much so that we can’t imagine a day without a mobile. This revolution is not only impacting our daily life but is driving the future of work and business in a very big way. Future of work (FoW) has become the new buzz word and is being talked about by all businesses world over. The big consultants like Deloitte, KPMG, EY have come up with their reports on FoW. 

Human interaction with machines is reaching meteoric heights in both business and society. This ‘login-logout’ culture is indicative of one simple fact - technology is single-handedly revolutionizing the world. 

From innovations in cloud computing to advancements in automation, technology is redefining life at lightning speeds in industry 4.0. This has led to today’s business society being called a ‘Techonomy Community’, where repetitive tasks are taken over by machines. As per a report published by EY and FICCI India, 65% of the children in today’s primary schools will land jobs that don’t even exist as of now. 

In these uncertain yet exciting times, change becomes the only constant. Having only one job for your entire career is a thing of the past.  To survive and thrive in the future, one has to keep learning and acquiring a wide array of skills pervasively.

The need for such upskilling begins with one thing - understanding of working with technology. Because no matter whichever job one takes and wherever one has to go, machines are going to be an integral part of one’s life. Even the jobs which exist today are getting an upgrade. As day-to-day tasks get automated, the focus has now shifted on attracting talent who is judgment-driven and analytical with communicative skills. The future of work is impacted by three key factors - business, education and job trends. 

Future of Business

Not just job roles, the Modus Operandi of numerous business sectors have also gone through an evolution of sorts. The automobile industry, for example, is not hiring electronic assemblers, mechanical engineers or quality inspectors in big numbers. Instead, the industry is on the lookout for AI and Machine Learning experts, robot operators, software experts and the like. This, in response to the customer’s need for connected cars, as well as the government’s, ask for BS-VI and electric vehicles.

Another example of an Industry’s MO changing can be found in aviation. The sector has seen and will continue to see upgrades in avenues such as supply chain management, customer relations, and sales. With AI and Machine-learning integration already taking place, fleet maintenance is getting cheaper day by day. And chatbots will soon be the single gateway for customers to make an enquiry, book tickets and resolve queries. 

Technology has also helped brought revolutionary changes to traditional industries, especially agriculture. India’s agri-tech startups have blossomed with investments of more than $300 million in 2016 alone. By introducing technovations such as satellite image processing, farm analytics, crop-inspection software, etc., startups are empowering India’s villages with smarter farming practices. And no. of companies are hiring professionals to help them with the same. To put it simply, to work in agriculture doesn’t just mean working in a field anymore. Instead, you could be working out of a corner office in any one of India’s small or big town.

Future of Higher Education

Nowadays, the availability of information online is fast changing the status of universities as the gatekeepers of knowledge. The role of an educator today is to ensure the hybrid-skilling of a student. And by offering flexible pedagogies, universities are transforming students into active participants of the learning process. Students of the information era choose the skills they want to learn and avoid the ones they feel redundant. Due to flexible Choice-based Credit systems and trend-based additions and subtractions of specialisation courses; the learner of today is becoming a professional with a diverse skillset. Slowly, the focus is shifting from classroom learning to experiential learning so as to make the future talent job-ready. 

MBA entrance exams have recently seen a jump in the number of applicants with previous work experience. Increasingly it is seen that students wish to get a feel for the industry first, and then move on to deciding the skills they would need for further growth. You will find many B-Schools offering Executive MBA courses, where the minimum requirement is applicants with at least two to three years of work experience.  

Future of Jobs

One thing is for sure, the workforce of tomorrow will not hold onto a particular job for a longer duration. They will always look for a change that will be engaging and interesting. As per reports by leading recruiters, the main motivations behind such changes are a need to experiment with different industries, professional growth, and personal job satisfaction. On the flip side, it is equally certain that unless future job seekers are open to continuous learning and are ready to adapt to new technologies, they may become obsolete and may get replaced by the manpower who has the latest knowledge and new-age skillset. As per the latest reports, the average time spent in one job is 2 - 5 years and the percentage of employees exceeding 10 years is down to 12%. The reports also support the need for hybrid-skilling; the average worker today needs at least six different skills to be employable, as compared to needing only two skills back in the 1980s-90s. 

Another upcoming trend is the rise of ‘gig’ or ‘freelance’ work. A survey of 800 HR professionals, conducted by The Economic Times (2018), reported 70% corporates who hired gig workers to supplement the skillsets of the existing workforce. The survey further said that 81% of India’s gig workers had begun work in the last five years. As technology integrates an individual's personal and professional spectrums seamlessly, the rise of gig work will continue. 

If one were to imagine the future of work, one could visualize a world where humans and machines are working in collaboration, trying to solve problems and grow together - an ecosystem which is constantly disruptive and filled with opportunities. So, to seize these enormous opportunities the mantra is to continuously unlearn the old and redundant and learn the new which is relevant.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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