Preparing For Tomorrow

robot waiters
The following is a conversation about structual unemployment overheard at a coffee shop. The names have been changed to protect the conversationalists' identity but here's the gist of their conversation. 
Lup Cheong: Oh Johnny... Happy New Year! What are you looking at on your tablet?
Johnny: I've been reading this. (flips the tablet over so Lup Cheong can see)
Lup Cheong: "47% of Jobs Will Disappear in the next 25 Years, According to Oxford University" Wa Piang le...Why start your New Year on such a depressing note...
Johnny: Because it's already happening liao...take a look at this.
Lup Cheong: "Thousands of jobs lost as Apple supplier Foxconn fully automates its factories" Boy am I glad I don't work in smartphone manufacturing right now...
Johnny: If I were you I wouldn't be feeling too confident right now.
Lup Cheong: Why?
Johnny: This is all part of this phenomena called structural unemployment. Also known as the Employability Gap.
Lup Cheong: What's that?
Johnny: Well, automation, robotics, and other advances in technology are either eliminating jobs or showing the potential to eliminate jobs in virtually every field. Industries around the world are changing rapidly thanks to disruption from new tech. Whether you and I, or even our kids, will have a job in the coming decades will depend on three factors: Knowledge, Skills and Experience.
Lup Cheong: Skills...hey do you think that's why MIW has been pushing this "Skills based learning" song and dance on us in the last couple of years?
Johnny: You mean Skills Future? Where we're actively encouraged to acquire new skills to keep ourselves employable?
Lup Cheong: Ya. That little program.
Johnny: Now that I think about it...This trend totally explains what Ah Long is trying to do. Employers today want people who've got the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to do the jobs they're hiring for. It's something that academia is failing to preparing our students for.
Lup Cheong: Ya. My friend who's in software development was recently downsized from his company, but he was able to find another job within one month. He told me that his other displaced colleagues have been struggling to find work.
Johnny: Did he say how he was able to land a new job so quickly while his ex colleagues haven't?
Lup Cheong: Well in my friend's case, he's constantly reading up on developments within his industry. He even codes during his free time instead of lepaking. He says he does it for fun and it lets him experiment and become familiar with new tech/developments. He even went back to school at Singapore Poly for two semesters last year to learn how to code apps on the IOS platform. He says he does all this to keep his skills current.
Regarding his ex colleagues who haven't been able to find work... My friend said despite the fact that they have over ten years of work experience, they can't do any coding beyond what's considered rudimentary stuff these days. My friend said that some of them only know how to code in HTML, which has become obsolete thanks to all these new fangled developments. He said these HTML coders never bothered to learn how to code using PHP, Python or even Javascript...
Johnny: How did he know that he'd need those coding skills to stay employable when his colleagues didn't?
Lup Cheong: He started out by going to the library, reading books and teaching himself.  He further invested himself by signing up for classes to bridge whatever skill gap he felt he had...
Johnny: You know your friend's story sounds just like tjeng hu's message about lifelong learning. 
Lup Cheong: Except he was already doing it before it became vogue with our g. Eh what are you looking up on your tablet now?
Johnny: I'm looking up the skills future site to see if they've got classes that I'd be interested in signing up for.
Lup Cheong (smiling): Good for you. 
Johnny: One thing though...
Lup Cheong: What's that?
Johnny: I wonder if your friend's approach to staying employable also applies to accountants. That article I showed you mentioned that accountants are highly likely to be displaced by automation...

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