Whether you work in the front office, the back office or the C-suite, your work will soon be very different.  With the influx of automation and AI, many of us will need to adapt to evolving work tasks or transition into a new job role (we’ve identified 42 that we believe will evolve, here and here).

At this point, however, according to our recent research, only about one-quarter of the existing workforce is prepared to handle the new types of work driven by digital technologies. The obvious solution is to reskill current workers and prepare the incoming workforce; however, businesses and higher-education institutions are only at the beginning stages of making that shift in their approach to education and training, according to our study.

The increasingly vital need to skill and reskill the workforce for the rapidly unfolding future of work has rocked our entire education system, business landscape and society. In the face of an unknown future, we must tackle some critical questions surrounding the future of education and training:

  • Who is really responsible for preparing people for the work ahead?
  • Which skills will be most important in the future?
  • Will traditional training approaches work for the digital economy?
  • How can universities and colleges ensure graduates have the skills necessary to add value to businesses?
  • Will businesses depend less on educational institutions as they discover alternative approaches to source future talent?

Rethinking Education and Training for an Age of AI and Bots

To answer these and many other related questions, individuals, organizations and higher-education institutions must first consider the following 21st century challenges.  

  • The future of skills: Skills today are like mobile apps – they need to be frequently upgraded. To avoid re-training overload, however, we need to determine which skills will be essential for surviving and thriving in a world where humans increasingly partner with machines to get work done. For example, even as technology grows more pervasive, human skills will gain importance, but will they be sufficient to guarantee career stability? If not, which skills must be blended with human skills for greater career success? How can businesses and educators collaborate to determine the essential skills of the future?
  • The future of training/teaching: Tomorrow’s learning experiences will be more active, interactive and, importantly, frictionless. They will blur the boundaries between the traditional classroom and the extended virtual world. Does this mean AI is the next giant leap in personalized training (and learning)? Will AI and augmented reality/virtual reality technologies replace trainers and teachers, or will they simply enable them to become better at their job?
  • The future of education: A skills-based curriculum is no longer a choice – it’s a necessity. The traditional linear model of education>employment>career is no longer sufficient. The renovations required for our current education and training systems are every bit as dramatic as those that occurred when the Industrial Revolution accelerated into high gear. Will the longstanding educational models that prioritized standardization and stability be replaced by badges and certifications? Will STEM streams be supplemented with design thinking, entrepreneurship, creativity and social science skills? Has the time come for higher education institutions to adjust their role from knowledge provider to skill provider?

The Thirst for Continual Knowledge

No matter how great our education and training systems become, if people aren’t curious about learning new skills, the future of work won’t happen. Business leaders need to be brutally honest when asking themselves and their teams whether their organizations foster a culture of learning.  Unfortunately, many businesses find the answer to this question is “No.”

Business leaders must encourage people to experiment, take risks and learn from new ideas and technologies. One way to address this issue is by establishing a new role to manage and promote learning across the organization. In our recent report “21 More Jobs of the Future,” we’ve identified the need for “Uni4Life Coordinators” to assist in facilitating lifelong learning for workers.

We’re at the most important crossroads of this century. How businesses and educators respond to the age of AI – that is, the choices and decisions they make in the next few years – will shape the fate of many, if not most, individuals, educators, businesses and economies. Now is the time for educators and business leaders to rethink their workforce learning models and their relationship with the future of work.

No matter your age, current work role or career ambition, adapting to the future is essential. Learn how to master the art of learning and gain the valuable insights required to excel in the future of work by registering for our March 28 webinar “The Future of Learning.”  Get a jumpstart by reading our recent white paper “Relearning How We Learn from the Campus to the Workplace” or view our infographic.

Manish Bahl

Manish Bahl

Manish leads Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work in Asia Pacific and has over 14 years of research, advisory, and business... Read more