In a video report titled “New Worries About Robots Taking Jobs” we learn that there is a significant concern about machines taking jobs, with more than 3 out of 4 teens saying that they're concerned about having a successful career because of automation and global competition. A study conducted by Jr. Achievement USA unsurprisingly finds that the same number of parents have the same concern.
Much of the worry surrounds the new gig economy. A gig economy (also known as a sharing economy) is a labor market that is characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs.
In an opinion article titled, "The new face of labor: How the next generation can shine in the face of massive change" the author writes:
“The labor force that we recognize today won’t be the labor force of my 8-year-old daughter. Everywhere I go, when I talk with to academics and business people, the theme of the radical pace of change emerges. Technology is driving innovation, which in turn is driving massive change in our labor force.
In just three years, by 2020, a whopping 43 percent of the U.S. labor force will be freelance, up from 34 percent or 53 million last year. The gig economy will be a reality for my daughter, and I wonder if that’s going to be a good place for her to earn a living.”
There is a growing chorus of warnings that a future workforce must be newly skilled for a new economy, but we are already here. Our entrepreneurial future is now. That is not to say that it is too late to prepare, but let’s be honest with ourselves and face this problem head-on so we might quickly get to a solution. The stakes are high – our current incomes and economic health depends on our ability to not only act quickly, but to also act correctly.
Those who possess these new skills are already in high demand, and there simply are not enough of these new economy workers to meet the current demand. New skills must be developed to meet the needs of employers, and quickly!
Aren’t students being adequately prepared to succeed now?
Sadly, the answer to that question is a resounding, NO. The author of the article above suggests:
“We need to re-invent the way we teach, not just in schools but in the wider world outside.”
I emphatically agree, but this begs the question, “How?”
The challenge we now face is discovering how to best prepare the new workforce for an already changing economy, so we might quickly do so. As an entrepreneurship educator myself, I’ve reached a definitive answer, and I’m happy to elaborate.
Interestingly, the answer is found in Jackson Pollock – an American painter and major figure in the abstract expressionist movement. Pollock is well known for his unique style of drip painting that launched him to fame in 1949 following a four-page spread in Life magazine that asked, "Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?"
In a recent article titled “What Makes a Jackson Pollock Painting Worth Millions?” the author aptly argues:
“…a striking aspect of his work is that it is abstract. To put it another way, it requires anyone who accepts and or “likes” it as art to accept what was once a radical premise: that ideas are more valuable than skill. In the American model, progress starts with ideas and if you have a great one you are going to own a factory (or today an internet startup) not work in one.
The Philistine modern art haters of the fifties who would look at a Pollock in a magazine and say, “My kid could do that” missed the point that Pollock was a “genius” who had changed how things were done because he had a new idea of how to do things: he replaced the brushstroke with the drip.”
At first glance, this narrative about Pollock might easily be overlooked. It serves as a wonderful example of supply and demand – one that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. Yet upon closer inspection, there is something more. An examination of how Pollock’s work became the underpinning of our modern art movement and grasping the full magnitude of his enduring influence can tell us a thing or two about how to best prepare people in an already changing economy, or rather recognize the current error of our ways so we might reach the correct solution sooner rather than later.
Historically, we have taken the simple approach of identifying key skillsets that ensure a student’s success in the economy. In other words, we asked what skills workers needed, then trained students in those skillsets through colleges, universities and vocational schools. Students then graduated from these institutions prepared to go to work, and lived happily ever after. It’s no secret that this scenario is no longer our reality.
Employers are (and have been) telling us that our workforce is not adequately prepared, especially in this new and changing economy.
Students work hard to graduate, only to later find themselves woefully unprepared to meet the new needs of our new economy. Our strategy of developing skills in our workforce simply is not working any longer.
Students aren't being trained to be successful in a gig economy, where value is found in ideas and idea development. Students are still being trained to meet the needs of an old economy, where value is found in process areas.
“Go to school, get good grades and you'll get a good job.”
The previous was the guide I was given when I set off to school, as so many before me have. Today, the landscape has changed dramatically. That pathway is no longer a straight line, and certainly does not come with the guarantee that it once did. Our new challenge is found in guiding today's students to a different path that will help them realize their true value in the marketplace, so they can find personal fulfillment and enjoy healthy incomes.
The entrepreneurial skill-set is needed more now than ever before, as we find ourselves in a time and place where entrepreneurs are needed on both sides of the economy – Those who can take the lead in developing ideas and launching entrepreneurial companies, and a workforce that understands how to work with entrepreneurs in small businesses and small teams that focus on ideas, rather than physical product development and assembly lines.
Training students in entrepreneurial skill-sets accomplishes the goal of preparing students to lead in idea development and to become the workforce for our changing economy!