Not every job will be lost to digital automation, especially non-routine jobs, such as surgeons, doctors, teachers, lawyers and writers. FILE PIC

WE are living in an era of rapid transformation. The Digital Era. From the Internet of things (loT) to artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, digital technology is permeating every aspect of our daily lives. In many ways, it has brought many positive changes, in as far as doing things faster, more conveniently and more efficiently.

Certainly, a lot of things have and will be impacted with the advent of digital technology. One that has been the subject of discussion of late is its impact on employment. As digital technology becomes widely used, associated skill sets will become more highly valued, and some of the more traditional jobs may have to change pace to keep up. While this is not something entirely new, as over the years we have seen new technology making its way into the workplace, but, for the digital revolution, something more radical is needed.

Charles Fadel, the founder and chairman of the Center for Curriculum Redesign and author of Four-Dimensional Education: The Competencies Learners Need to Succeed, said, in a recent interview, that digital technology will render many jobs obsolete, calling it “jobsolescence”. According to him, technology is already playing an indispensable role in some industries today.

Fadel, nevertheless, said all is not lost with digital automation. There will always be a percentage of workforce that can never be automated. These are non-routine jobs such as surgeons, doctors, teachers, lawyers, writers and so forth. Seriously, would you leave your children to be taught fully by a machine? Would you leave your surgery in the hands of a robot since no human beings are created alike?

I believe it’s a matter of accepting what we cannot control and move on to what we can. Some jobs are going to go but there will always be new ones coming on board with new and more relevant ways of doing things. Lawrence Katz, a Harvard economist, said: “We’ll never run out of jobs. There is no long-term trend of eliminating work for people. Over the long haul, employment rates are fairly stable. People have always been able to create new jobs. They always come up with new things to do.”

In the real sense of the word, it’s how fast we adapt and turn the situation around. Take social media, for example. Its presence has led to new jobs of creating social media marketing, as well as social media influencers and social media strategists. No one predicted Uber coming on board a few years ago and yet today, it has created lots of job opportunities for many people all over the world.

With new jobs, it is only logical that we look into how we will equip our future generation with the required skill sets. To prepare the talent needed for the digital economy, education must adapt as fast as the demand for information technology skills is growing and evolving. We, thus, need to readapt our education system to be on a par with all new job requirements shaped by digital technology.

Perhaps, we need to increase our education’s capacity in focusing on technology. It is indeed vital since these new jobs would definitely involve technology in one way or another. We need to shift our focus and invest more into reshaping the education programmes, enhance the learning grounds with more technology and coming up with more continuous updates on the latest technology out there.

It will take the collaborative efforts of all the stakeholders to address this issue of jobsolescence.

While the government is doing its part with policies and programmes, others need to also play their role. Universities and other learning institutions need to focus on reshaping their education programmes to ensure they match the needs of the current and future job market.

Corporate businesses can always provide more training programmes to keep up with new technologies and equipping staff with the relevant skills so as not to remain redundant.

The impact of jobsolescence is global. Digital technology hits globally, so the issue is far beyond just our shores. Adaptability is vital in our future workforce. Innovation will happen whether we like it or not, so we should embrace it and turn it around the way the future shapes up to be. The key to embracing the future digital workforce is to be agile, to accept and adapt.

Ahmad Kushairi is the editor of BOTs, the weekly tech section in Life&Times. Trained in Maths, he has since traded his problem-solving skills with writing about how tech has helped to transform the world for the better. He can be reached via kushairi@mediaprima.com.my

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