On Future ‘Skills’ and Jobs

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*The sarcasm is heavy with this post.  Be prepared.

*’Skills’ is used incorrectly many times in the table.  Many of the skills listed are quite domain-specific. Again, be prepared.

The above table is part of the Future of Jobs Report published September 17, 2018 by the World Economic Forum, which appears to based out of Switzerland, the United States, China, and Japan.  The main purpose of the report is to predict which jobs and ‘skills’ will be needed in 2022 and which ‘skills’ will become somewhat obsolete.  I’d like to take a few paragraphs to ask some major questions of the table and do a bit of predicting, myself. I’m only going to point out what appears to me to be the most glaringly obvious malfeasances, but feel free to comment with your own questions and/or concerns.

Before I get specific, I would like to unpack the table.  In my opinion, the most telling column is the last; skills declining in 2022.  Outside of ‘coordination and time management’, none of the ‘skills’ mentioned in the first column are present in the ‘declining skills in 2022’ column.  This tells me the skills of 2018 will remain stagnant or, at least, not be the most declining skills in 2022. Fair enough…at least, for now.

Technology

The inconsistencies here jumped out right away.  And, to be honest, the report did not predict the findings I thought it would.  It is interesting that there is no mention of technology in the 2018 column…seems to be a major focus of ‘skill’ development these days.  Trending in 2022 is ‘technology design and programing’. Ok, so we’re designing and programming things…cool. But look in the declining skills of 2022 — technology installation and maintenance and technology use, monitoring, and control (Also, it appears the use of the oxford comma is declining 2018-2022).  Wait…so we’re going to design and program technology, but we won’t be installing it, maintaining it, using it, monitoring it, or controlling it? What?  I don’t get it.

Ok…maybe the robots are taking over and they’ll be doing all of this so we don’t have to.  Well, not exactly.  From page vii of the preface: “estimated use cases for humanoid robots appear to remain somewhat more limited over the 2018–2022 period under consideration in this report.”  If the robots aren’t taking over, then I can’t make sense of this.  Please, someone help me.

Endurance

It’s declining.  Sorry, Dr. Duckworth.  Grit doesn’t matter anymore.  

Memory, Verbal, Auditory, and Spatial Abilities

Wait…so remembering things will be in decline in 2022?  Verbal abilities? We won’t have to speak or how to carry on a conversation?  I don’t buy it…and neither should you. Auditory abilities are out too? I guess if we don’t need to speak, we don’t need to listen, either.  And, of course, there will be no reason in 4 short years to reason spatially either.  Why would that matter as a functioning human being?

Reading, Writing, Math, and Active Listening

I’d like to think it couldn’t get more absurd than it already has…but here we are.  Reading…reading…will be on the decline in the next 1000 days. I don’t even know what to say about that.  I don’t believe I have to argue the ridiculousness of that prediction. And if we’re not reading, there’s no need to write, either.  Or math. The robots that aren’t taking over in 2022 will be doing that for us. Or you could just google it…no need for foundational knowledge to build upon.  At least with the decline of active listening there’s some continuity…from above, if we don’t need auditory abilities, we don’t need listening skills.

Visual, Auditory, and Speech Abilities

This one is the real head scratcher…visual ‘skills’ will be on the decline in 2022?  We won’t need to SEE things. What? How? Again, I don’t think there needs to be anymore questioning of this prediction.  Auditory abilities/listening is mentioned a 3rd time and speech/verbal abilities is listed a 2nd time…just to make sure we didn’t forget…even though memory won’t matter soon.  

Ok.  That’s all I can stomach at this time.  I guess the question I’m left with here is, if the robots aren’t taking over and many (memory, verbal, auditory, spatial, reading, writing, math, visual) ‘skills’ are declining, what in the heck are we going to be doing in 38 months?  

Here’s my prediction:  Things will largely still be the same.  Knowledge will matter. Vision, reading, writing, math, memory, and audition will all really matter.  If you are a teacher, don’t believe this mess. Also, don’t believe any outlet touting that 65% of the students we’re teaching will have jobs that don’t exist yet.  Even if that outlet is the U. S. Secretary of Education.  Continue to teach your students.   All of the jobs of the future will require knowledge. Continue to love your students; whether that be a bit of tough love when needed or compassion and an empathetic ear.  And don’t get bogged down with predictions of grandeur, they mostly become afterthoughts as the world keeps spinning.

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