In working with cities across the globe on economic development, a consistent challenge our team it is consulting on is the continued development of the workforce. Many cities are already measuring the shortage of skilled talent in their region and can forecast the gap their industries will face. For young students all around the globe, the current university track is not as clear as it once was in terms of the cost, relevance and value. This creates quite a dilemma for students and their parents to navigate. The impact will be significantly felt by industry all over the world who will struggle to successfully operation and compete. This crisis will involve building new/alternative models that will need to be led by today’s and tomorrow’s industries.
To break down the complexity of this topic let’s highlight a few of the top challenges in this space:
Workforce Gap vs. Next Generation Workforce
Today the metrics already show a growing gap in the skilled workforce needed to support today’s economies. The existing systems are clearly strained, sluggish and possibly incapable to meet the demand. This challenge is also compounded by the fact that many of the new job roles and skills (capabilities) in the coming decades are undefined or unknown. As new industries emerging around natural resources, new energy, healthcare, space, genetics, etc. will require the development of new disciplines, experience, and the ability to create best practices, training, certification. The time gap required to develop these new programs will outpace the demand of these new industries.
Future of Education vs. Today’s Systems
Today’s primary education systems, and especially the university models, are under massive strain financially. Critically important is that they are struggling to deliver on their mission to develop employable graduates with the depth of knowledge and application of that knowledge relevant to today’s industries. The future workforce also needs to be educated in creative and problem-solving abilities required to be adaptive to meet their career challenges. Many corporations must augment the university education with extensive additional education and expense to onboard new talent. It is doubtful that the requirements of the industries of the future can be integrated into the strained education systems of today and get a different result. The path forward will require new alternatives to be created that integrate academic and industry training backed by new funding and organizational models. Today’s model of universities (that have grown to be massive institutions that are not financially viable and ruled by a tenure system) will have to be challenged with a more global consortium model of combined academic fundamentals with industry application. This also implies that these new global consortiums can provide a global education inclusive of industries and markets and new models of exchange. Much of the curriculum will need to come from the cutting edge industries that are creating these new frontiers. Industry will have to fund much of the workforce development, but not through a granting model with no accountability but more aligned with direct global industry internships models where students work and learn throughout their entire education and earn their education and graduate to direct employment.
Degree vs. Life Long Learning
While tomorrow’s workforce can be built with new programs, the current workforce must remain relevant. New industry talent development models need to create a culture of life-long learning. Societally we need to shift from thinking about getting a degree at the beginning of your career to having programs that keep you learning throughout your entire career. As the speed of technology, innovation, and business keep accelerating, the workforce has to be constantly educated. Thus from the first day of school to the last day of work you are always both working and learning. This becomes the new norm of what a career is and it is directly integrated into education and employment. A job is no longer just a job but continued growth opportunity and it is built right into the job roles of the future.
Global Collaboration vs. Going It Alone
Many new industries will arise in different countries around the world, but many of the solutions developed for the global challenges will need to be shared by everyone. We must build a workforce for the world to be successful as a whole. Whether you work in the country that is inventing, producing or implementing the solution, the skills will be required to be in all three locations. Workforce and talent development programs will need to be integrated around the globe in order for new industries to flourish and meet the urgency of some of the shared grand challenges.
Ecosystem vs. Ego-system
North American companies have grown up in a culture of individual corporations making it big and competing against their rivals. Globally, the notion of collaboration and co-opition are more embraced as many companies pull together to combine resources and compete in markets. As global companies grow to or exceed the size of today’s leaders, we will see a larger shift to these global co-opition models. This makes developing your capabilities around researching and engaging your business ecosystem a critical success factor in building tomorrow’s competitive advantage. It will also be a key underpinning of workforce management and talent acquisition. In many cases, top talent and capabilities will begin to be shared effectively across organizations. Those companies that can’t share talent may find themselves isolated, struggling to retain talent, and ultimately be playing competitively against teams of much larger resources and skills.
Independent vs. Employee
There are many increasing trends where individuals are taking the path of being an independent contractor vs. a traditional employee. Corporations also like the flexibility of leveraging consultants as needed vs. committing to full-time employees with benefits. It also allows corporations to immediately bring on skills in areas they have not prepared for or an industry disruption where a demand has been created. Given the speed of business and innovation, this flexibility in talent acquisition can also create an advantage or benefit to the agility needed to compete. The rise of many online platforms where independents can be found and job needs are posted continues to create a global economy of resources and networks of resources, that can quickly be engaged. Companies that become the best at leveraging networks of independents and can bring them in and out of their cultures the most successfully will have the advantage in agility and building expert teams on demand.
Manual vs. Automation
The 4th industrial revolution is frequently tied to the increased role of automation and robotics use as a workforce replacement. While many benefits are gained for industry in the use of automation the concern is that of the human workforce that is displaced. There are many new industries that will emerge around this shift including the design and development of the robotics and manufacturing systems. The implementation and maintenance of those systems in operation. The management and analysis of those systems over their life cycle. Each of these areas will require the development of a skilled workforce to support the shift. The challenge arises around the retraining of the existing human workforce either into these new fields or into other job roles. This effort falls within the lifelong learning topic mentioned above but has brings an added element of possibly retooling of skillsets.
Current vs. Future Industry
Considering the examples highlighted above, I will pivot the conversation to an opportunity. These challenges already exist and solutions are already being tried around the world from which we can learn. India, for example, is at the forefront of both environmental grand challenges and industry workforce challenges. Let’s take a quick look at their situation.
One of the great challenges of India’s economy is in the population growth. With over 650M under the age of 25 and being on track to hit 1.5B in less than 10 years, India has to create over 50M new jobs for the next 50 years! On top of that, 70% of those new jobs are not defined yet and will be defined by emerging fields like:
- 3D printing
- Nano Technology
- Artificial Intelligence
- Virtual Reality
- Space ( $70M for India to go to Mars/$200M for the USA )
- Driverless Cars
- Robots / Drones
These fields are new and will spawn many adjacent industries to support the primary innovations. They are also high complexity fields that will require an amazing depth of education and lifelong learning as the industries mature. India already knows it can’t solve these challenges alone, but many of the first experiments and programs will be tried here and this makes it a critical market to study as other countries evaluate their options and to see how people are already collaborating.
To gain a deeper insight into the many fronts where India is facing leading challenges, please see my blog that dives more deeply into their situation: Future of India
The workforce challenges are real and the solutions will take new cultures of collaboration, new models, and cultural shifts to solve them. I plan on breaking these challenges down further to explore options that are being pursued in different regions and what models are emerging that will disrupt many of today’s systems.