If you were an employee on Henry Ford’s assembly line in Detroit in the 1920s, you received a high degree of training and preparation before you ever set foot in the factory. You learned what your role was, and were given all the tools you needed to accomplish your job from Day One. From then on, your role never changed—you did your part to move a product forward along the assembly line, from the day you began until the day you retired, 40 or 50 years later.
Since those days, the business world has transformed — everything that can be automated has been automated. The fourth industrial revolution is upon us, with the forces of AI, robotics, and 3D printing disrupting the status quo and pushing outdated processes into oblivion. The Ford factory workers’ jobs have largely been turned over to machines.
But the workforce training process hasn’t kept up with the pace of change.
The education that the workforce received was designed in the previous industrial age: front-loaded for first 20 years, and expected to apply to their jobs for the next 40 to 50 years. Today, we are in the knowledge economy, and there is new knowledge we are required to learn and apply daily. How can we future-proof our workforces to help them prepare for the rapid pace of business transformation?
Like many things in the world today our education system needs a major overhaul. To assume that education stops after the first twenty years or so just doesn’t jive with our now ever-changing world. Education is still in the mode aligned with getting a good “factory” job out of high school and then settling down into a comfortable middle class life. That philosophy might have worked fifty years ago but not now.
Despite what many Trump supporters believe living today requires us to be in the constant learning mode. One good thing about all of this is that opportunities for the most part exist for those willing to put in the effort to accomplish them.
But even discussing the good times of the past seems out of kilter to me. It seems that almost everyone around today have much more than I did growing up in the 1950s and 60s. Back then it was rare to see more than one car in a household and especially for teenager to have his own car. The student parking area in my high school was about twenty feet wide as almost all of us took the bus to school. Our clothes comfortably fit in the three feet wide or narrower closets of that era. Fresh fruits and vegetables were limited by season. And coffee came in only two varieties and cost a dime a cup. We simply didn’t tear out totally functional kitchens because they were out of style.
Getting back to education issues, even though I worked for the same company for thirty years I basically had three quite different occupations that required a much different knowledge base. Except for the first one I equipped myself with the necessary tools to do the job through self-learning. I kept my skills up with the times.
Yes, accomplishments might require more personal work today than they did in the past but if you are willing to do the work they are there for you.