This is a critical time for today’s young people.
When I speak at conferences or to organisations, I notice that during the Q&A or after my talk, concerned parents frequently ask me for advice about their children. What should they be studying? How do they protect themselves from having their futures automated by AI and robots? What do they need to do to prepare for jobs and careers paths that do not even exist now?
And perhaps the most burning question: how do I channel my son or daughter’s passion for video games into something positive and constructive?
Parents know they need to do something, but they don’t know who to turn to.
There’s a big push towards coding and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) but is this enough, or indeed the right strategy? A quick look at any of the research on job automation (check out willrobotstakemyjob.com) reveals that work involving human ‘soft skills’ such as critical thinking, empathy and creativity will be the most protected from automation.
Jobs like teacher, writer, and manager are the most safe. Importantly, low level coding is very likely to be automated (around 50% chance), but the person managing the development of that game or piece of software — who needs both hard and soft skills — has a very low chance (around 4%).
Crafting a solution
I find myself uniquely positioned to prepare today’s young people for an uncertain future. Not only have I been helping organisations prepare for the future and been immersed in technology myself since 2002, I have been working as an educator and have taught at the university level for more than 7 years.
But more importantly, for the past 20 years I have been living and working in the future. I know exactly what young people need to thrive because I have already had to do it for myself.
When I was finishing high school and starting university at the turn of the millennium, I was in the exact position most young people find themselves in today. The work I wanted to do did not yet exist, and no one knew how to help me.
My guidance counsellor did not know what to do with me. I felt very demotivated and scared, which impacted my school work. I had no goals, or direction because I could not see what I could do with myself. I was smart, but a mediocre student. My science teacher told me I would not amount to much in life.
I was very lucky to have enough people around me who did see the potential in me, and with their help I started to carve a path for myself. I had to create my own educational program and career path as I went. I could not study the internet, or social media, or games as these programs did not exist yet.
Instead, I studied philosophy, which taught me how to think critically, write persuasively and to always be learning — skills that enabled me to adapt and always be in the forefront as technology changed. I continued to immerse myself in technology too, staying abreast of changes and their implications.
I had to teach myself how to network effectively in a way that would get me work; get my ideas in front of decision makers; and talk to anyone from politicians and artists to CEOs and activists. I had to overcome my fear of public speaking so I could share my ideas with large audiences. I had to learn to be an entrepreneur, and always be ready to find a new client or gig.
All of these skills are critical in the coming future of work, where fewer people will have reasonably stable 9-5 jobs. Instead the portfolio job — working for a variety of clients will become the norm. Where co-working spaces, or or innovation hubs will become the common office. Where being an entrepreneur and making your own job will become the standard.
My passion has always been to not only help people prepare for the future, but to ensure that they thrive. We are at a critical time for young people right now, it is vital we make sure they succeed and have the same positive, enriching growth experience I have had since leaving university.
This is why I decided to develop Future Human Academy.
And I am proud to announce we are launching our pilot project, Future Ready Teens in Toronto in June 2018.