Frances Valintine is an “Education Futurist”. She has worked for the New Zealand Government developing education strategies and is the founder of two innovative education providers, The Mind Lab, and Tech Futures Lab. Frances has spent the past 25 years thinking about the future of work, and thinking about the skills and capabilities that people need to have to prepare themselves for a long, successful and rewarding career.
What does the future of work look like?
The biggest change will be that the idea of working for a traditional corporation will almost disappear. We’ve now got a much younger workforce who are demanding a different set of experiences. They’re not nearly as attracted to the 9-to-5 job.
We already have five generations within the workforce and that means that people coming out of university or even out of high school are going to have a whole new skillset that is really important for today, that senior staff don’t always have.
Workers under 30 are really digitally comfortable. They’re often the drivers of change in their companies as they increasingly question, “Why do we do things this way?”
Employers can be really challenged by the emergence of new talent models that have flipped traditional hierachical structures where people start as a junior and slowly work their way up. Now graduates are coming out of university saying, “I want to be heard. I’ve got ideas, I’ve got ideals, I’ve got views. I’ve got passions and I want to be able to play to my strength.”
Progressive organisations have tapped into the technical skills of this new generation and are letting their expertise drive decisions and contribute to transformation.
What skills will be in demand?
Technology is increasingly replacing functions within jobs. In the same way that email removed the need for secretaries to type up letters, business now relies heavily on the integration of digital systems.
However, we have more job vacancies globally that cannot be filled than ever before. We’ve become more productive, more industrious, more connected than ever. And that’s actually creating a whole lot of new roles, but almost all of them have some form of technology that’s underpinning them.
We have to think about what it means to do the really human things. How do we innovate? How do we create? How do we progress science and technology to solve some of our most pressing issues including climate change, population growth, health, education and wellbeing?
This is not a world of answers, this is a world of questions. Curiosity, experimentation, innovation and creativity are all really important. Don’t be afraid to go down unknown, uncharted paths as there is still so much to be discovered and to be understood.
How can students make sure they’re prepared for the future?
Do what you can to diversify your skillset. Develop skills in whatever area you want to do, but make sure you’re adding to a portfolio of skills and capabilities.
Get out and collaborate, be curious and travel. Talk to people who are not just like you. Make sure you understand cultural differences; that you understand what it’s like to work with people of different backgrounds and with different skills.
Diversity in the workplace is proven to benefit the bottom line, but it also makes for a richer more inclusive culture that supports creativity and idea sharing.
There’s so many ways of learning. Every day there are local meetups happening; in any city in New Zealand you can go online and look for a meetup and go and hang out with a group of people who might be talking about artificial intelligence and machine learning, or they might be talking about Roman history or architecture.
Don’t go because you get credit for it, or a reward, or a qualification. Go because you’re curious. Curious people are interesting people to be around. And that’s what employers want.
What are New Zealand’s strengths when it comes to preparing students for the future?
As a small trading nation in the South Pacific, we have greater responsibility to prepare for the future. We need our students to be inquiry learners, to collaborate, to understand technology.
International students here have the ability to climb a mountain and run on the beach. They can learn and be immersed in a vibrant multicultural population, and be connected to different parts of the world.
"If you give people space to think, and give them permission to think differently, they will."
Our strength will be in retaining the richness of our past and our environment and merging it with technological advances to be one of the most exciting and dynamic places to live, learn and develop.