Category Archives: Career Skills

Continuing professional development

Some comments of continuing professional development (CPD) from one perspective – how to learn, re-skill and survive and from the other view, what is redundant and not worth learning.

“I spend almost all my time (when not working with clients) on professional development. I read, I attend conferences, I learn new skills. This is the kind of professional development that companies simply no longer offer anymore to their regular employees. My company exists not just to service my clients, but to keep me current and employable.”

How to thrive in the tech industry for decades

How To Thrive In The Tech Industry For Decades

Reskilling or deskilling: the advance of the robotic digital age

There has been a recent spate of articles in the press predicting that rise of the robots will take over from humans. This is of course the stuff of science fiction, but there have been other voices that are more considered and perhaps more concerning. These predict that many skills and jobs will be taken by computerisation and robots.

“The upcoming digital age may cause more upheaval than previous technological revolutions as it is happening faster than before and is fundamentally changing the way we live and work. Technology in the 21st century is enabling the automation of tasks once thought quintessentially human: cognitive tasks involving subtle and non-routine judgment. Through big data, the digitisation of industries, the Internet of Things and industrial and autonomous robots, the world around us is changing rapidly as is the nature of work across occupations, industries and countries. Although we can’t predict exactly which jobs will be affected, we do have a reasonably good idea about the type of tasks computers will be able to perform in the near future. Based on this, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne predict that 47% of the US workforce is at high risk of automation as a result of these trends and low-income and low-skill jobs are now, for the first time, most likely to be automated.”

I would suggest that you check your own career or skill set against the predictions in this report – Technology at Work: The Future of Innovation and Employment. It could be a sobering thought! For example at the top of the list as least likely to be replaced by computerisation are Recreational Therapists. At the bottom of the extensive list are Telemarketers.

An earlier report attempted to predict which professions will no longer require humans and what new types of skills will be required I have summarised this in Table 1 at the end of this post.

The skills that cannot easily be replaced – the so called computerisation bottleneck – will be skills in three main areas:

  1. Perception and Dexterity
    For example, gardeners working in small parks or gardens will not easily be replaced, though in agriculture large machines for ploughing, planting and harvesting will replace most human labour.
  2. Creative Intelligence
    It is predicted that in the legal profession the legal secretary will be increasingly replaced by automated filing, searching, retrieving suites of software, though the actual lawyer will still be required.
  3. Social Intelligence
    Computers will be able to simulate social intelligence but the human customer will continue to prefer interaction with other humans, or at least it is hoped. So hair dressers will still exist.

We will see the proliferation of computing devices in the Internet of Things, so that all walks of life will be networked, communicated with and controlled. This is now starting with the “Nest Learning Thermostat!” for home central heating systems.

It is predicted that the skills that will be in demand are those who can build, control, and maintain computers. Which is why teaching Computer Science at schools should be a very important step in the development of an individual’s career path and also contribute to the competitiveness of the country that educated them.

TABLE I – O*NET variables that serve as indicators of bottlenecks to computerisation

Computerisation bottleneck

O*NET Variable

O*NET Description

Perception and Manipulation

Finger Dexterity

The ability to make precisely coordinated movements of the fingers of one or both hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble very small objects.

Manual Dexterity

The ability to quickly move your hand, your hand together with your arm, or your two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.

Cramped Work Space, Awkward Positions

How often does this job require working in cramped work spaces that requires getting into awkward positions?

Creative Intelligence

Originality

The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.

Fine Arts

Knowledge of theory and techniques required to compose, produce, and perform works of music, dance, visual arts, drama, and sculpture.

Social Intelligence

Social Perceptiveness

Being aware of others’ reactions and understanding why they react as they do.

Negotiation

Bringing others together and trying to reconcile differences.

Persuasion

Persuading others to change their minds or behavior.

Assisting and Caring for Others

Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.

ICT, Digital Literacy, and Computer Science in Schools

I have been reading articles on ICT educational policy in the UK.

I am doing this because this is the subject I will train to teach and because these articles were written by my future tutors – it will always pay to know your teacher’s profiles better.

This particular article is worth noting: Embedding Information and Communication Technology across the curriculum – where are we at?* . It opened my eyes to a larger problem that I might encounter in schools. That computers and the ability to use them and understand their social impact can be regarded as a transferable skill, that can improve a students performance in other subjects, and is not being formally taught at GCSE or A level.

Here I detect danger signals. Many schools are so focused on exam results that if a “thing” cannot be tested – whether that thing is a skill, a subject or whatever – then it will get little formal teaching time. Even though ICT skills and digital literacy are thought of as good skills / knowledge to have, it will not be taught.

At least under the much maligned ICT GCSE some attempt to teach ICT skills and digital literacy was made. The focus now is moving to the formal teaching on Computer Science (CS).

It would be silly of me to suggest that the newly released syllabus for the CS GCSE should be changed at a time when everyone is running around trying to cope with the changeover.

So the only route I can think of is to either dedicate some of the formal CS teaching time to “other” ICT skills and subjects – a dangerous thing – or to teach it in after school clubs. Or rely in the more motivated student to just pick it up as they go along.

Or persuade a school to drop another subject. The argument going that it will benefit the performance across all subjects. Which subject would a school be happy to drop?

Mmmm…

* The article can be found here at Research in Teacher Education, October 2014.

What are new skills to teach in the 21st Century

One brave blogger has attempted to list the skills they thought are the important ones for school children to have in the 21st Century.

21ST CENTURY SKILLS – THEY EXIST AND THEY MATTER…

They had broken their list into three parts:

  1. Totally new skills (did not exist pre-21st Century)
  2. Skills that existed in the past but are much more important now
  3. Skills that are always in demand but now have technology to help!

As I read the list I wondered about how these skills should be imparted? Should they be directly taught? For example tell them we are going learn touch typing and how to position the hands and which fingers are used on which keys. Or should we teach them via work? As them, for example, to write 200 words about their favourite film and the first person to finish gets to read it out.

For me any listing of 21st Century skills should be broken down into these parts:

  1. Best taught directly
  2. Best acquired by doing as part of other work
  3. Best a blend of both

And then it might become more apparent which skills a teacher should be concentrating on in designing lessons.