Decoding the future: The school providing the skillset for next-gen jobs
Forty percent of the jobs of the future do not yet exist. It's a prediction you will often hear repeated at career forums and tech talks. Is there any truth to the figure, however? If so, what exactly are those jobs yet to be invented?
The Local spoke to two students from the higher education programme Forward College about what the future of jobs will look like, and how their unique education is helping them prepare for it.
An artificially-intelligent, automated superhighway?
Back in the nineties, 'the information superhighway' was used to describe the transformative powers of digital technologies enabled by broadband internet. Thirty years later, this 'superhighway' has taken us to places few could imagine.
The rise of artificial intelligence, most recently demonstrated in the viral rise of 'artistic' applications such as Dall-E, and ChatGPT has impacted almost every career field. Suddenly, workflows are drastically streamlined and, depending on the industry, productivity can be increased by up to several orders of magnitude.
Automation has also had a massive impact. While we haven't yet arrived at a future of android workers, drones and robots are already delivering food, cleaning hospitals and taking the place of even the most specialised workers.
While any kind of prediction is hard, it's not unreasonable to assume that many jobs will disappear, but with even more to replace them.
A future where what's human matters
Brazilian first-year Forward College Data Science student Leonardo Reche, 18, predicts a swing back towards the human factor in terms of job creation.
"The jobs of the future will be more people-focused than task-focused. The focus will be on well-being, rather than results. The computers and machines we've created will be able to do so much more for us, so the focus will be on human relationships, ensuring that people everywhere have access to goods and services.
"Designing people-oriented technology is going to be a greater area of growth. We need more people designing user experiences, as there's still a lot of global inequality and not everyone has the same proficiency with technology."
Spanish second-year student Yohana Fontenla, 19, who is studying Economics and politics, has similar sentiments, albeit with a caveat.
"I don't believe jobs will be created, as much as adapted. In 20 years, we may not need pilots for passenger jets, but we'll need more people to design them, program them and supervise flights. Jobs will focus on overseeing automation and making sure the needs of people are met. Yes, jobs will disappear, but more will be created as humans are needed to adapt the new technologies."
Are schools ready?
Leonardo and Yohana believe that future careers will require a greater focus on human relationships, in addition to an understanding of new technologies. But do they think schools have given them the skills they will need to succeed?
Says Yohana: "One of the key things school misses is teaching us how to treat one another. We don't necessarily learn how to work in a team or give useful feedback. When you're at school, you don't even think about needing these skills. When we get to university it can be quite a shock."
Leonardo replies: "Ready for the workplace itself? I don't think so. At school, we were constantly given theoretical knowledge, with little understanding of how to apply it. We weren't taught how to take that theoretical knowledge and use it to achieve a practical goal.
"I'm applying for summer internships at the moment and the first thing I notice in ads is that they ask for someone who has communication, teamwork and interpersonal skills - all things you need to prove with prior experience. If you've gone to a traditional school, you're going to have a hard time with that.
"Not focusing on interpersonal skills is the big black hole, when it comes to what schools miss about the workplace, It's an area of skill that will be even more important in future decades."
Forward (College) thinking
Both Leonardo and Yohana are students at Forward College, a unique three-year programme, spaced across three cities. It combines undergraduate degrees from the University of London and the London School of Economics with a range of professional and personal development courses and certifications.
Created by French entrepreneur and government advisor Boris Walbaum, alongside a team including Apple and Google alumni, Forward College's goal is to 'future-proof' graduates by developing the interpersonal skills that schools don't focus upon.
"We have a whole module dedicated to those 'soft skills'," says Leonardo.
"There are classes and readings each week that teach the importance of communication, giving feedback and problem-solving. Then we can put those skills into play in our practical assignments, where we work in a group on a real-life problem. When I'm entering the job market, I can show that these are skills that I have developed."
Yohana appreciates how Forward College has taught her greater flexibility and resilience, through the programme's year-long stays in three key European capitals: Lisbon, Paris and Berlin.
She states: "We spend a lot of time learning and practising how to adapt to people and situations, both in theory and through our practical assignments. Because we're spending time in three different countries, we also have to adjust quickly, to understand the language and culture.
"Throughout the programme, we learn how to respect and adapt across cultures, and this is important in the world of business. If you're going to join a team or found a company, you first need to understand and appreciate how everyone works."
Focus on the future
With three different programmes across six different fields of study, in addition to co-living in three of Europe's business capitals, it seems that Leonardo and Yohana's time at Forward College is the ideal preparation for the careers of the future - but how do they feel about what's to come?
Yohana is cautiously optimistic, saying: "Well, it's scary and there are lots of challenges ahead, for us as individuals and the planet as a whole. Think of the effects of climate change and political division.
"On the other hand, I think that Forward College is giving us an advantage in approaching our careers and in solving future problems. We have already been working on real-life projects and we can see that we're making a difference."
Meanwhile, Leonardo seeks to use his time at Forward College to harness technology for good.
"I have mixed feelings. There will be a lot of hard work for us to do and conflict in making sure everyone has access to what they need. We are already seeing environmental collapse and resource inequality.
"However, there is also much technological progress. It is easier to reach people than ever before, and the global standard of living is improving. I know what I've learned so far can be used to improve lives, through the smart use of technology.
"Whatever happens, those of us who have had the Forward College experience will be ready for any of the important jobs the future has in store."
This content was paid for by an advertiser and produced by The Local's Creative Studio.