💡 This article is based on episode 1 of #AskWhy, Mindstone's new podcast on the future of work and learning, featuring Pedro Vasconcellos, Pearson Ventures' Corporate VC.
The world of work is evolving at an unprecedented pace, with technology playing a key role in driving change. This rapid change is having a significant impact on the skills needed in the workforce, with the rate of change is outpacing our education system's ability to deliver the skills we need. The average time a skill stays relevant used to be over ten years; as of 2023, it is four years - and it continues to rapidly decrease.
The challenge of preparing people for the future is not just about teaching them new skills, but also about providing them with the tools to learn new skills quickly and efficiently. This article will explore the challenges and potential solutions for the future of work and learning, referencing our latest chat with Pedro Vasconcellos.
The Decreasing Relevance of Skills
The decreasing relevance of skills is a significant challenge. We keep applying plasters to the problem, decreasing the time required for qualifications and inventing micro-credentials to recognize ever smaller units of skills. But these are just temporary solutions. The value of a qualification is only as good as the time for which it provides you with an advantage in the workforce. As that time keeps shrinking, the value of qualifications shrinks with them.
The challenge of preparing people for the future is not just about teaching them new skills, but also about providing them with the tools to learn new skills quickly and efficiently. The half-life of skills is rapidly declining, and the time that any particular skill stays relevant or is valued in the workforce is getting shorter and shorter. Pedro Vasconcellos says it's like trying to train to be an all-round athlete for every single sport. Instead, the focus needs to be on developing a toolkit to change from skill to skill and being a "flexible agile learner."
Preparing People for the Future
The challenge of preparing people for the future is not just about teaching them new skills, but also about providing them with the tools to learn new skills quickly and efficiently.
Pedro highlights the need for new disciplines and the difficulty of preparing people for the future of AI and technology. "How do students interact with learning? What does one actually need to learn to be successful in the rising world of AI? Are there new disciplines that will have to exist because we are evolving so quickly? How do we prepare people for that future?" These questions are at the heart of the challenge we face in the future of work and learning.
The Importance of Learning
With the rapid pace of change, it is impossible to predict which skills will be in demand in the future. The ability to quickly and efficiently learn new skills will be a key differentiator in the workforce. Pedro notes that "It's about learning how to learn and being efficient about it. Having that flexibility is important." It is vastly different to memorize facts than it is to know how to apply that knowledge, especially in a work setting.
The Learning Economy and New Signals of Success
Only 50 years ago, we were focused on getting people through university and trained to function in society. With the emergence of the learning economy, how do we get more people through that process at a larger scale? The challenge, says Pedro, is to identify new signals of success that are more relevant to the changing needs of the workforce.
Universities are often seen as rigid and conservative, but the brand represents ongoing stability. That rigidity also means they aren't able to change and adapt quickly. Time is taken to craft courses and put together workshops, with many solely focusing on the theoretical aspect of skills, sometimes mising out on more hands-on, practical knowledge.
If universities aren't able to adapt to the changing world, how will people ever be truly ready for life when they won't be receiving the right level of education? We have proved over and over again that people have graduated from university but are not fully prepared for the workforce. "There is a massive gap between the number of people with degrees without jobs and the number of employers looking for people but claiming they can't find anyone qualified," Pedro says.
Pedro also highlights the need for new signals that employers and society can use to drive success. The challenge is to identify new signals of success that are more relevant to the changing needs of the workforce. What these signals are remain a question as well.