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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Disruptive Technologies and the Skills Revolution


As part of my work with GO Productivity I have been all over Alberta conducting workshops on the impact and implications of disruptive and emerging technologies on small and mid-sized businesses. 

Key questions we canvassed participants on was around the changing skills needed to work in a digitized and automated economy.  While many existing routine and even analytical jobs in professions like law and medicine will be lost or changed, others will be created.  There is definitely a “skills revolution” happening.  It’s in early stages but it has traction and is gaining momentum.

The new world of work and the coming skills revolution will have disruptive impact on the next generation too.  The Royal Bank of Canada has just released a report dealing with this change called “Humans Wanted, How Canadian Youth Can Thrive in the Age of Disruption.”

Here is how they frame the issue: “The next generation is entering the workforce at a time of profound economic, social and technological change. We know it. Canada’s youth know it. And we’re not doing enough about it.”

The challenge they discovered is “…a quiet crisis — of recent graduates who are overqualified for the jobs they’re in, of unemployed youth who weren’t trained for the jobs that are out there, and young Canadians everywhere who feel they aren’t ready for the future of work.”  

In response, here is the ambitious commitment from the RBC to deal with the issues: “RBC wants to change the conversation, to help Canadian youth own the 2020s — and beyond. RBC Future Launch is our 10-year commitment to that cause, to help young people prepare for and navigate a new world of work that, we believe, will fundamentally reshape Canada. For the better. If we get a few big things right.”

The RBC also puts out a related challenge to business, government and educators.  “We all bear responsibility to change that. As employers, we need to rethink the way we hire, retrain and continuously reshape our workforces. As educators, we need to think beyond degrees and certificates. 

As governments, we need to take advantage of the world of instant information to harness the coming skills revolution. And young Canadians everywhere need to seize the moment, to demand more of Canada and more of themselves.”

We are all responsible and many of us are able to respond.  As it stands now business, government and educators are all weak links in dealing with this crisis and engaging in the solutions.  It will take a collaborative, concerted and consistent effort to change how we do things, independently, and more to the point, together, solve this….and it must be solved.

The place to start is to read the RBC report and reflect on the new skills and the new mix of skills for the digitized automated Industrial Revolution 4.0.  Then look at your operations and start getting specific about what you can do to be part of the solution to our common problem.

When everything is changing at the same time at ever accelerating rates, there is no option to watch and wait it out.  We all must take steps to be the disruptors - not the victims. Adopt, adapt and take economic advantage of the change ... or whither and die.  Stark? Yup.  True? Absolutely!