by Vincent Hunt | Photography by Dave Barfield
In 2013, The Department of Labor released a report that illuminates the fact that 65% of the children in primary school today will be taking on jobs and occupations that have yet to be created. While this report may cause deep concern (and alert parents to the idea that we need to start thinking about preparation strategies that go well beyond the traditional education model), it should also raise the brow of marketplace professionals already engaged in work that may be extinct in the next 20 years. While it’s easy take on the notion that “we are safe” and that “our jobs will not go away,” this thinking is fundamentally flawed and removed from what’s really happening. With the pace of innovation and technological advances at an all time high, it’s reckless and irresponsible to believe that we are “safe” and that our children are immune to such radical change. Innovation and change is inevitable. In this inevitability, we must also understand that immunity is illusive and it’s unwise to position ourselves in a posture that makes us vulnerable to disruption. Making conscious choices that better prepare our children and ourselves is of utmost importance. I would be doing you a disservice if I did not say this before I continue: Thinking 20 years into the future is a bold, and somewhat scary, undertaking. But it’s 100% necessary.
How Do We Prepare for Uncertainty?
Preparation for uncertainty is the underlying mandate that we all must subscribe to. We must be willing to embrace the unknown and strategically align our children and ourselves with the resources that broaden our understanding of how technology is transforming the marketplace. Gaining a deeper understanding of future facing technologies helps us navigate the probable disruptions that may impact our jobs, and more importantly transform the way our children will approach work in the future.
An example that I use repetitively with the parents that I work with at Creators Camp is the model of a surgeon. Surgery is highly skilled, very advanced work today. To become a surgeon one must undertake years of schooling and training. Developing the skills and mindset to tackle some of the most daunting challenges any professional can face; all in the pursuit of preserving human life. Surgeons are necessary and their work is deeply profound. Here’s the truth: with the emergence of artificial intelligence, computer learning and advanced robotics, this landscape is going to change. The work done with human hands will soon be augmented with robotic ones, and the decisions made will be driven through very sophisticated, intelligent systems that have the ability to translate decades of historical medical data and front-facing research to derive conclusions that humans are incapable of.
This is the future. A child in high school TODAY -2017- who decides that he/she wants to be a Surgeon will face this future head on. It will take 15 to 20 years for a high school student to become a surgeon. That places us firmly in 2032 to 2037… digest that. 2032 to 2037… NOT 2020. If the young person aspiring to be a surgeon is not equally engaged in artificial intelligence and robotics, he/she may be developing themselves into a career that’s definitely needed, however, he/she may not be equipped to be competitive in the space they are entering. In other words, he/she may be training for extinction.
We have to start having these conversations with young people. We have to be willing to challenge them to think beyond the borders of their field of choice, and explore the technologies that are transforming their fields and tackling those too. YES, it all seems daunting… and it is. Marketplace competition in the future is “skills” based, and those who begin to acquire skills now will win.
It’s unsettling for me to hear people say “technology is not my thing… What I do is not technology driven.” That excuse, not to engage technology, is fading fast. It’s the same paradigm that many baby boomers lived through, when televisions advanced and they could no longer operate the remote but their grandchildren could/can. Advancements in technology are changing everything, and if the stance you take is “technology is not my thing…” you are excusing yourself to a place that will ultimately cause you to fall behind and dwarf your ability to compete.
We must be willing to engage the learning process, and keep up with the technologies that are transforming the marketplace. Being aware of what’s going on is the first step. Having an understanding of how technology interfaces with your industry and curating the information needed to envision transformation is paramount. If you are an accountant, you should be thinking about artificial intelligence. If you are a truck driver, you need to be concerned with autonomous vehicles. If you are a hardware store owner, you need to be concerned with 3D printing and manufacturing.
As it pertains to our youth, we need to start helping them view the world through a maker’s lens vs. a consumer’s lens. While media does a good job of selling the novelty of a 3D printer to a young person, it does a horrible job of selling the “why” behind a 3D printer. Helping a young person re-imagine a hardware store that needs 75% less inventory, and has the a ability to print material fixtures and parts on demand is of deep importance.
Bravery & Tenacity
Preparation for the future, gearing up for the 65%, really boils down to two words in my mind. Having the bravery to look at change and embrace it is important. Having the tenacity to re-imagine and make the future vs. allowing change to cripple us is important.
As Builders, we must be willing to be honest as it pertains to the future. We have to be willing to look our young people square in the eye and let them know that we don’t have all of the answers, BUT we are willing to explore, create and pursue what’s possible. In doing that, we create a space where lifelong learning can happen, new possibilities can be born, and the future becomes something that we spend time building vs. worrying about.
Vincent Hunt is an American Innovator and Entrepreneur. Hunt is Co-Founder and CEO of Creators Camp, a year round program designed to give K12 youth early exposure to the fields of science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM).