London Futurists

The key workforce skills for 2026, with Mike Howells

May 17, 2023 London Futurists Season 1 Episode 39
London Futurists
The key workforce skills for 2026, with Mike Howells
Show Notes

One of the questions audiences frequently used to ask futurists was, which careers are most likely to be future-proof? However, that question has changed in recent years. It's now more widely understood that every career is subject to disruption by technological and social trends. No occupation is immune to change. So the question has switched, away from possible future-proof careers, to the skills that are most likely to be useful in these fast-changing circumstances. For example, should everyone be learning to code, or deepen their knowledge of STEM - that is, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths? Or should there be more focus on so-called human skills or soft skills?

Who better to answer that question than our guest in this episode, Mike Howells? Mike is the President of the Workforce Skills Division at Pearson, the leading learning company.

The perennial debate about when and how advanced AI will cause widespread disruption in education has been given extra impetus by the launch of ChatGPT last November, and GPT-4 in March. Pearson, a venerable British company which has gone through various incarnations, is one of the companies at the sharp end of this debate about the changing role of technology in education. The share price of several of these companies suffered a temporary setback recently, due to a perception that GPT technology would replace many of their services. However, Pearson and its peers have rebutted these claims, and the stock has largely recovered.

Indeed, with what could be viewed as considerable prescience, Pearson carried out a major piece of research before ChatGPT was launched, to identify which skills employers are prioritising for their new hires - new employees who will be in their stride in 2026 - three years from now.

Follow-up reading:

Topics addressed in this episode include:
*) Some lessons from Mike's own career trajectory
*) How Pearson used AI in their survey of key workforce skills
*) The growing importance - and growing value - of human skills
*) The top 5 "power skills" that employers are seeking today
*) The top 5 "power skills" that are projected to be most in-demand by 2026 - and which are in need of greatest improvement and investment
*) Given that there are no university courses in these skill areas, how can people gain proficiency in them?
*) Three ways of inferring evidence of someone's proficiency in these skill areas
*) How the threat of automation has moved from blue collar jobs to white collar jobs
*) People are used to taking data-driven decisions in many areas of their lives - e.g. which restaurants to visit or which holidays to book - but the data about the effect of various educational courses is surprisingly thin
*) The increasing need for data-driven retraining
*) Ways in which the retraining experience can be improved by AI and VR/AR/XR
*) The attraction of digital assistants that can provide personalised tuition, especially as costs drop
*) School-age children often already use their skills with existing technology to augment and personalise their learning
*) Complications with privacy, security, consent, and measuring efficacy
*) "It's not about what you've done; it's about what you can do"
*) A closer look at "personal learning and mastery" and "cultural and social intelligence"

Music: Spike Protein, by Koi Discovery, available under CC0 1.0 Public Domain Declaration