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Jobs – what will we tell our kids?

Chris Field
Chris Field

It’s all very well telling me that 30-40% of the jobs our kids are going to do in five years’ time don’t exist yet – but no-one wants to guess what those jobs are, or they talk about them in such general terms that I still have no clue what to tell my children to help them prepare for the future.

Of course, I could direct them to what I know (marketing), but I want them to make their own choices. Or I can tell them about other ‘professions’ that always have job availability, but for which we all know the hours and pay are terrible.

Or I can tell them about jobs that will be immune to – or work in harmony with – the rise of Artificial Intelligence, which presupposes a world in which there may be fewer, but better, jobs.

What qualities do they need to nurture to prepare themselves for a world where the machine, and not the human, is making the everyday decisions? Big law firms already outsource a lot of basic processing to low-cost economies, and in time, as more of that material becomes digital, machines will do that work. Same goes, it’s reckoned, for accounting.

The assumption in those scenarios is that as long as you’re the chief accountant, you’re safe, because you’re making a small number of big decisions that only a human can make; but if machines can learn at such a rate that their next-best guess is better than yours, even that may not be true.

The sunlit uplands we are being offered is a place where, liberated from the daily grind of making lots of tiny, imperfect decisions, humans can focus on their natural creativity and come up with better ways to do everything, supported by smart machine decision making.

And there’s the rub. Natural creativity, it is assumed, is common to all; but how come there’s so little of it about?

If my kids are creative, how do I help them nurture that quality so they can join the ranks of the chosen few who will have a job in five or 10 years’ time? Are generations of parents praising their children for being so creative, when in truth those kids are simply copying everyone else, and using tools available to all? If my 8-year-old can shoot, edit and post a YouTube video, then how creative do you think your daughter is?

And are schools doing the right thing by talking about creativity, but then pushing kids through the same exam sausage machine just to flatter their stats and to get them off to uni?

Are my own attempts doomed to fail because I’ve simply told my children what worked for me?

Let me tell you what’s missing. The key to creativity (which is just one of the essential qualities of the future workforce) is curiosity; who, what, when, how and where? If you’re not interested in how things work, why people do silly things, where you came from, what made you the way you are, and why you might be unhappy, then you can’t effect change.

Creative people are always trying to do things differently, and are impatient with the way things are. Frankly, they can be a pain in the arse, but they will always be working, and over time that work will mould itself around them.

It’s our job as parents, in-laws and godparents to try to create these jobs before market forces throw these children on the scrapheap, and yet another generation of parents is accused of letting their kids down.

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