Why is it that the economy is expanding but the number of high-paying jobs is not increasing (and possibly decreasing)? Tom Friedman in his New York Times op-ed column suggests that the answer to this question is the “Great Inflection”. This is a time of dramatic change in work and education due to technology. He writes:
Because of the way every industry — from health care to manufacturing to education — is now being transformed by cheap, fast, connected computing power, the skill required for every decent job is rising as is the necessity of lifelong learning.
Job seekers, employees, and managers need to prepare themselves for this change. The days of going to school, learning a skill, and working for a company until retirement have long since gone. If you don’t come well educated, familiar with the latest technology, but also ready to learn whatever is new, you are not likely to find a good-paying, career-shaping job.
I live in a region of the country where many new businesses are being started. However, these businesses won’t make a dent in overall unemployment. They are too small, require only a few highly skilled IT professionals, and don’t have jobs for the secretaries and entry-level folks who filled workplaces in the past. Some of these companies have been created to get flipped, so they outsource as much work as they can. The few employees who are hired by these companies are tech-savvy, but even so, they will have to continually reinvent themselves as these companies grow and morph.
At the same time, not much has changed in the way we educate students and train workers to accommodate this new workplace. We continue to emphasize K-12 schools, two and four-year colleges, as well as employee classroom training even though all of these are centuries-old, arbitrary constructions designed primarily for the benefit of teachers, not learners. These methods of educational delivery are reinforced by a system that rewards time in class, credit-hour production, and continuity at the expense of learning. These institutions are not adequately preparing learners for the “Great Inflection”.
The change that companies and their employees face due to technology is
quotes Craig Mundie of Microsoft as saying:
…not just elites, but virtually everyone everywhere has, or will have soon, access to a hand-held computer/cellphone, which can be activated by voice or touch, connected via the cloud to infinite applications and storage, so they can work, invent, entertain, collaborate and learn for less money than ever before.
We need education and training that are in line with this fast changing world of work. As Friedman points out, it’s not only a flat world; it’s also a hyper-connected world.
A perfect example of this point is Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village for orphan and vulnerable youth in Rwanda. A third world country but the residents and graduates of this village communicate with each other using Facebook. They are hyperconnected which has profound implications for how they will live and work in the years ahead.