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Chris Targett
31 March 2016

A recent Panorama documentary looked into how technology is not only transforming our lives but also the labour market and the opportunities in our communities, with many low skilled tasks being taken by computers, robots and other machines.

We can see this already when we visit supermarkets, with the proliferation of self service, fast checkouts in many stores.

More and more white collar middle tier roles are in decline such as, secretarial and administrative roles alongside higher tier roles such as chartered and certified accountants, due to the ease at which they can now be automated (and the cost effectiveness of these strategies). One of the recommendations the programme made was that people would need to develop their skills of creativity, empathy, people skills and problem solving to stay ahead in the job market, as these skills were less prone to automation and therefore jobs involving these skills were less likely to be replaced by machines and lead to redundancy for these workers.

If in reality, there are individuals that don’t have the ability or desire to build these skills, it leaves me wondering where would, these clients fit in the future?

Alternative lifestyles to the perceived mainstream is one alternative, where either money isn’t the main goal in life or perhaps it is combined with other ways of living. For example, working as bar staff whilst pursuing an artistic or musical career on the side (as a cliché example). 

Or, as found in many contemporary surf cultures, teaching others to surf or kitesurf alongside one’s own enjoyment of the sports (as seen in another BBC documentary) is a different tack.

Choosing to “unplug” from the mainstream and technology; pursuing other ways to live, such as in rural retreats or communes, with a back to basics approach (such as returning to cottage farming) is a choice we can see some people already making today. Although as an article exploring these modern day communes reported, they are not always as they seem with a permaculture ethic in some centres and lifestyles dependent on the technological developments within eco-engineering and sustainable technologies. These communities are nothing new historically but are seeing a resurgence and twist in our dawning technological age, where individuals feel that the zeitgeist of total computerisation and mainstream digital living is not for them.

Out of these changes, new career opportunities are also surfacing; although not directly related or tied to the changes but equally affected by them. Such careers include counsellors for those suffering addiction to social media and retreats to switch off and develop mindfulness, as well as a growth in educators who can teach us how to balance potentially frenetic technology based lifestyle.

Yet, do these alternatives give scope to those whose ability is a barrier? Some looking for entry level jobs may not wish to take some of the alternative pathways outlined above.

A differing report shows us it might not be as bad as the Panorama documentary makes out, with jobs increasing in many areas due to an aging population facing retirement (whether replacing those who retire or caring for them). Care, leisure and service industries are some of the main sectors identified, each requiring “people skills” which, maybe harder to be replicated by machines.

It is these people skills which, is crucial to nearly all of the career pathways identified above. For those who are not able to compete within the technical occupations, whether they are aiming for higher or entry level occupations these people skills may become their strongest chance of finding future employment.

If you would like to explore this further with students, this useful quiz on whether your future career is at risk of automation is worth a look.

Or you may wish to discover which jobs of the future might suit you or your students’ best!

We can’t predict what may happen in the future for certain but, we need to keep an eye on the horizon and ensure that the society we build will remain suitable for all, regardless of ability.

We can do this by helping our students grow the essential skills required for future employment and helping them to understand how the labour market is changing and evolving. 

Written by: Mr Chris Targett

Originally published on CXK Blog, Tuesday 22nd September 2015

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