The Global Shapers event “Shaping the Future of Work” was hosted on 18 February 2020 at the Microsoft Innovation Center in Brussels. The event brought together a diverse panel of four speakers from academia, NGO, business and institutions including Karen Triquet, doctoral researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and a core member of Brussels Research Centre on Innovation in Learning and Diversity (BILD); Silvia Merisio, Policy Officer in the Digital Economy and Skills unit in the European Commission's Directorate-General CONNECT; Laurent Hublet is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of BeCentral; and Mark Lange, Senior Director of EU Institutional Relations at Microsoft.
Moderating the evening’s discussion, David Timis, Curator at Global Shapers Brussels Hub, opened the discussion by presenting the results of the Global Shapers recent study on Shaping the Future of Work aiming to bring evidence-based perspectives from youth into the conversation. The study is based on the 2019 Shaping the Future of Work survey of 2,500 young respondents between age 21-29. Within the context of the findings of the survey panellists discussed different perspectives on the current and prospective challenges in the ever-changing workplace.
Shaping the concept of careers
The majority of survey respondents (76%) think of careers as a way of living where paid work is just a component between other activities. Careers are increasingly perceived as a combination of meaningful work including traditionally non-paid activities such as volunteering, education, or personal ambitions. In shaping the future of work, there is an urgent need to update the current welfare system to this new concept. As Laurent Hublet highlighted “the current European welfare system (education, retirement, lifelong learning) needs to be updated to match a career concept that represents the current realities of our societies today”. Moreover, the survey finds youth believes the future of work will involve working remotely and with flexible schedules (52%), more entrepreneurship and self-employment (44%). Karin Triquet, pointed to similar research from the OECD and the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) regarding youth views about the future of work and reminded the audience that it is important also to understand and take into account (sometimes large) differences and disparities between countries.
Shaping the meaning of education
56.9% of youth surveyed believe they are not prepared when they leave education. As societies change to become more digital and connected, education is increasingly becoming a blend between formal and non-formal learning changing. The meaning of traditional education is changing. Education is becoming a means to prepare students with critical thinking to learn how to learn. As Mark Lange put it “education prepares you for the world of work but not the way intended”. Karen Triquet highlighted the need to re-evaluate how we define and what we see as education in times when learning is pervasive, connected and lifelong. She presented insights on how learning to learn skills and self-regulated learning skills will be foundational in the way we think about education and develop programmes. She highlighted ‘’Educate programme”, a stakeholder collaboration from academic, NGOs, businesses, and tech specialists, aiming to improve the use and development of EdTech in schools. This type of initiative shows how we can better embed learning sciences across digitalisation efforts while bringing different voices to address the wider community. In addition, adapting the education system also means developing the right competences in the teaching community. Karen highlighted other examples of pedagogical innovation such as mobile learning initiatives, pedagogical agents and MOOCs, from research on the potential of digital technologies at the Brussels Research Centre on Innovation in Learning and Diversity (BILD).
Entrepreneurs are most likely to stay in the same sector (71%) compared to full time employees (47%). The main career-sector migrators are people currently working on commerce, financial services. Most youth show interest to migrate towards Industry 4.0. Within the 4th Industrial Revolution, AI is magnifying the disruption process that automatization brought to industrial revolutions before. Workers must quickly adapt to fast-emerging technologies. In adapting to jobs of the future, survey respondents believed the most important skills to successfully make a career transition include critical thinking or soft skills (i.e. problem solving (65%), soft skills (62.1%), communication). Laurent warned against the concept of “soft” skills, “soft” often connotates not important, but may probably become the most important skills to shape the future of work. Soft skills will be the human advantage over machines.
The panel discussed the importance of stakeholder collaboration in designing ups killing and reselling strategies. Silvia Merisio presented the European Commission’s plans in this area and highlighted multi-stakeholder initiatives, such as CodeWeek, aiming to bring coding and digital literacy to the wider community. She highlighted the importance of stakeholder collaboration in building relevant initiatives, such as CodeWeek aiming to bringing coding and digital literacy to the wider community. She also mentioned good practice examples offering reskilling programmes as incentives within companies, such as Airbus, allowing 100 staff to be retrained in digital skills to change functions. Mark Langue highlighted the work of the Microsoft Innovation Center, a private-public partnership between the Brussels Region and Microsoft to sustain the development of the IT sector in the Brussels Region or Microsoft's research collaboration with LinkedIn to understand the impact of AI on the labour market and the workforce.
Diversity matters when shaping the future of work. Laurent Hublet reminded the need to address that there is a skills inequality. “The “present” of work is not equally distributed and we need to address this in order to find inclusive ways of shaping the future of work”.
Author: Paula C. Domingo, Social Researcher & Consultant