How to Think About Jobs of the Future

By John Waggoner

August 14, 2018

AI demands new job skills

People have been complaining about the changing workplace since bronze tools replaced flint scrapers. You can count on the revolution in artificial intelligence and automation continuing to shape the investment and working landscape for years to come.

Young people must realize the importance of finding ways to benefit from automation—not trying to fight it. Understanding the value of future jobs skills should be a big part of any well-rounded financial education program, particularly any geared at students.

One way to benefit from automation, of course, is to invent a robot that can fold and put away your clothes straight out of the washing machine, or perhaps independently vacuum your floors. Oh wait. Someone already did that. Failing that, you could try to get a job at a company like Boston Robotics, which makes Spot, a dog-like robot that can move quickly over rough terrain.

Spending on artificial intelligence is expected to grow to $47.3 billion by 2020 from $8 billion in 2016, according to mutual fund company T. Rowe Price.

A more practical way to benefit is for students to take the long view in their career choices. In an era where automated cars and trucks will start to appear, being a driver is probably not going to sustain you over a long career. Similarly, in an age where dispensing prescriptions can be automated, students might want to think twice about majoring in pharmacy, a profession that has traditionally led to decent wages right out of college.

The biggest technology disruptions in the next decade will be in financial services and business services, according to the PwC report The Talent Challenge: Rebalancing Skills for the Digital Age.

But many of the skills students will need are uniquely human ones: Problem solving, creativity, innovation, adaptability and leadership. Even if we will be able to get a package from Grandma via drone, the world will still need people to figure out better ways to get goods and services to those who need them.

The industries least affected by technological disruption are likely to be the leisure and hospitality industries as well as the consumer goods industries. Likewise, automation doesn’t mean there will be no need for English teachers, policemen, politicians or lawyers. Yet those professions will have to adapt to the new services available to them – such as facial recognition software for law enforcement and plagiarism detectors for English teachers.

Workers won’t be entirely on their own learning new skills: 73% of CEOs say that their organization is collaborating with educators and policymakers to improve the employability of future workers, according to PwC. And companies are working hard to attract skilled workers, offering modern workspaces, flexible hours and relaxed dress codes to bring in the workers they need.

These days, there are probably more students who want to be rock-star coders or inventors than All-Star pitchers or, well, rock stars. And that’s fine. But as the pace of automation and artificial intelligence increases, they will need to take a long-term look at other career choices.

Just as there aren’t horse-drawn wagons any more, there may not be cab drivers in the near future. A bit of forethought about what the future might look like during their working lives could be their smartest move of all.

More on future job skills:

How Robots Show Us The Workplace Skills We Will Need, Yet Foolishly Resist

Why Your Gamer in the Basement Might Get a Great Job

You Will Find a Job You Love, Maybe Just Not Right Away

Why Future Job Skills are a Key Aspect of Financial Education

Posted in Youth on August, 2018