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When will we start learning and stop „doing the job”?

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Is there a recipe for “survival” in the labour market, which we will share with machines? What kind of education do we need to prepare for a change? It is predicted that 10% of professions will cease to exist and many new ones will be created more quickly, than modern primary school pupils will complete their formal education. Here are some facts and advice to help you start thinking about this and not panic.

Predicting the future

When talking about the professions and competences of the future, it is often predicted that 60% of today’s teenagers will work in professions that do not yet exist. According to the extensive research and the report The Future of Skills, which predicts the future of competence in 2030:

  • 10% of people are engaged in an occupation for which demand will increase
  • 70% have the profession that will exist, but the way in which it is carried out will change
  • 20% have mechanical work, which is likely to be replaced by robots in 2030

It is right to predict and fear the automation of many professional activities, but professions will not cease to exist. Surely, however, the way we do our work is changing and will change. Some of the tasks will be automated, some of us will perhaps work with machines (this trend is called cobotisation), which will trigger the need for new skills and redefine what cooperation means. Some of the work may become even more analogue than it is today for reasons of cyber security or prestige, for example.

Looking at the various reports and publications, you can see several visions of the future and the insights that link them. Technologies are omnipresent and change every aspect of life. This is not only about the widely discussed automation or scenarios for developing artificial intelligence, but also about safety. The more devices connected to the network we put in the house, or even implanted in ourselves, the more elements of our life we will be prone to hacking. The number of objects that we surround ourselves with, and that are always online, is also linked to our mental and physical state or digital well-being.

The professions, competences, our health and well-being in the future will inevitably be affected by the climate and demographic issues. Realistic reports also draw attention to the limited resources we use to produce and supply our technological needs. New skills and professions will also be needed to exploit less energy and generate less waste. The example of ecology and climate change shows very well how huge changes we need in education, which can prepare for lifelong learning, increasing mobility and unpredictability.

Professions of the future – profitable, important or innovative?

Are the professions and competences of the future the ones that will pay off most? Perhaps those that are best integrated into technological change, or, on the contrary, resistant to it and to automation? Or will it be those that will help us to survive as a society? The most sensible approach is to try to combine these methods of thinking. In practice, this may mean skilfully combining the use of new technologies with soft skills, e.g. supporting multi-generational and multicultural teams that work remotely. It is also a combination of “old” and “new” professions and a change in the forms in which they are performed, which gives them a modern character and requires new competences and greater flexibility from those who perform them. A great example is the growing demand for doctors and even psychologists to do their work online.

Few industries illustrate these changes better than entertainment. There have always been people who created entertainment or educational content, but today they use YouTube and Instagram for this purpose. The technologies in their hands are so easily accessible that they can change the face of entire industries within a few years. Reduce the demand for certain professions, such as professional photographers or video makers for the media, and create completely new ones, such as streamer and gaming professions, i.e. online gaming. Many of them combine high specialisation with a high degree of interdisciplinarity, i.e. the ability to integrate knowledge and skills from many areas. This is not new, but accepting that more and more jobs require such diversity still poses a major social and economic challenge.

Will the “profession” still exist?

We already have difficulty in naming positions in many workplaces. In addition, the competences needed for the same position in different companies may also be completely different. The range of skills needed is becoming increasingly wide. The flexibility, the ability to learn constantly and manage change are often more important than specialisation and hard skills.

There are no more professions that our grandparents or even parents knew. The generation of the current 30-year-olds does not practice one profession for life, not even for half. We are expected to change jobs more and more often. Our professions do not have their own vocational/universal schools and credible certificates, we can also learn them on our own outside of formal education (programmers, coordinators, “managers”.) It is predicted that we will develop mega-professions – a combination of a very wide range of competencies in different fields, where we do not necessarily specialise in many.

What are you learning now?

Perhaps soon, instead of “what do you do” or “what studies have you finished”, we will ask “what are you learning now?” This change is well illustrated by the competences of the future most frequently anticipated by researchers. We can group them into three large categories:

Lifelong learning, which also consists of cognitive flexibility, the ability to build personal learning strategies, but also knowledge and competence management (including forgetting unnecessary ones).

Comprehensive problem solving, which requires critical and analytical thinking, the ability to make decisions, often based on incomplete data, and courage combined with creativity (only such a mix guarantees that our good ideas can make a difference).

Working with and for people, that is, not only cooperation or management, but also an extensive emotional intelligence, which allows for a flexible perspective, social, entrepreneurial, service, often in a single action.

In addition to preparing for the future from your personal perspective, your children or the people you teach, it is worth not missing the key proposal that links most of the predictions and speculations about the future. We can and should take responsibility for the change, because we are all deciding today what the scale and consequences of automation will be, how the labour market will change or how useful the school education will be in life in a few years’ time.