The World Economic Forum “engages the foremost political, business and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.” Its 2019 Annual Meeting took place in Davos from Jan. 22nd through Jan. 25th.
The WEF is to the world of business what Paris and Milan are to the world of fashion: not everything they present on the runway will appeal to everyone, but it will give us food for thought.
Our children should be thinking about it if they plan to spend 4 years and $46,764 CDN on a basic bachelor’s degree ($87,164 CDN with residence) so that they can compete successfully for work against graduates of the 28,077 universities in operation around the world today. There will be 262 million students enrolled in those universities by 2025.
Nor should we forget that there are over 7.7 billion of us on the planet and that not all great ideas come from university graduates. (Google “successful business people who didn’t graduate from university”.)
On Jan. 25th, The New York Times published ‘The Hidden Automation Agenda of the Davos Elite’ in which it said, “They’ll never admit it in public, but many of your bosses want machines to replace you as soon as possible.” That’s food for thought.
Lives are built on steady incomes. Bosses who plan to replace people with robots threaten those lives, and that threat isn’t confined to soon-to-be graduates. What qualifications will be in demand when our children graduate? How strong will that demand be? Where in the world will it be? How long will it last?
Do parents understand that only certain university degrees will qualify a graduate to compete for a position, but none guarantee that a position will be offered?
Education is serious business, serious enough that what organizations like the WEF publish should be considered carefully because of its long-term implications. Especially now given how the world is changing and how it will continue to change.
Most of what those organizations publish is free. But it’s not enough that it be free: it must also be correct and relevant because of what’s riding on it.
Showing parents and their children how to identify, access and interpret that information is why Personal Due Diligence exists.
F. Neil Morris
President & Founder
PERSONAL DUE DILIGENCE
Just when we thought it was safe to think of the workplace as a stable, predictable environment in which to earn a living and build a life, job security is slipping into reverse. Precarious (irregular) employment is becoming more common, governments are working at increasing the minimum wage and employers are still ‘hiring’ young people but not paying them because, those employers claim, they’re volunteers. The law now takes a dim view of such practices.
Deloitte (‘Six trends to watch in alternative work’), RBC Royal Bank (‘Predicting Tomorrow’s Workforce: More ‘bots, More Skills, More Anxiety’) and McKinsey Global Institute (‘What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages’) tell us that technology and higher education will figure prominently in the future of work. But when the rubber meets the road, neither comes with a guarantee of employment, lifelong or ottherwise. The 40-hour workweeks and permanent jobs with benefits and pensions we’ve always wanted for our children are at risk of becoming an endangered species.
(To read about a real-world application of what you just read, please visit ‘GM Gets Ready for a Post-Car Future‘, FORTUNE 500, June 1, 2018, for a description of how and why GM CEO Mary Barra is changing the environment and culture at the 110-year-old automaker.)
Parchment isn’t delivering financial security and above average lifetime earnings the way it used to when the world was a more flexible and accommodating place. Demand for university graduates has never been stronger and more students are enrolling because of it. There are now so many degrees on the street that our children have to navigate buyers’ markets for talent, just-in-time work-forces and environments that reward employers for dragging out the hiring process. By 2025, enrollment at the world’s 26,368 universities will stand at 260 million. More graduates, more competition for work.
There are more different kinds of work to apply for and more new places in which to find it than at any other time in history. But résumé screening statistics show that only 10 job applicants in 100 understand what the labour market is and what makes it tick well enough to motivate prospective employers to call them in for an interview. They also show that only one of those 10 applicants will be offered a job. What they don’t tell us is how the work is going to be structured, how much it will pay, how long it will last and how employees and employers are going to relate to one another.
Our education system isn’t producing graduates who can make the connection between what they learn in school, labour markets, how employers determine what a degree is worth, and going for the brass ring. Every one of the 7.3 billion people on the planet wants their shot at that brass ring.
The National Geographic TV series One Strange Rock aired an episode entitled Survival on April 10th. It showed what survival is in a way that only National Geographic can. BBC Earth is doing the same. Human beings created the technology and shaped the attitudes that define the environments in which we live and and work. Our kids are going to support themselves in those environments.
Grizzlies pluck migrating salmon out of the air as they swim upstream to spawn. The streams are the labour market, the salmon are employment opportunities. Grizzlies know what salmon are, in what streams they’ll be running and how to catch them. We have to teach our children how to find the streams where the salmon run. Whether they’ll choose to fish when they get there and how well they’ll fish will be up to them.
The world as Deloitte, RBC and McKinsey see it has implications for our children. They’ll have to learn about those implications at our knee because they won’t be learning about them anywhere else.
I teach parents and their young people how to connect school, labour markets, how employers determine what a degree is worth, and going for the brass ring. It’s a skill they’re going to need for the rest of their lives. Grizzlies already know that.
Personal Due Diligence
Thinking in the language of the customer
Employers are customers and the customer is always right. But only 10% of applicants understand how employers think and today’s résumé rejection statistics prove it.
Parents expect to see a positive financial return on their investment in university for their children.1 Employers expect to see a return on their investment in hiring university graduates. Whether their child’s degree translates into a signed offer of employment in their chosen field or not will depend on whether the employer believes that their child will be a part of generating that return. Their children will be running a gauntlet of résumé screening applications that want to be spoken to in ‘Employer-ese’. Ninety percent of résumés don’t, including those submitted by newly minted graduates. Applicants who don’t survive the gauntlet aren’t invited to interviews.
Because of what’s on employers’ minds, the Royal Bank recently announced RBC Future Launch. It addresses the problem parents face if you’re contemplating sending their child to university, and there’s no escaping it. Clicking here2 will take you to the Future Launch home page. This is what you’ll see:
“Canada’s youth are set up to fail in the new economy. In fact, today’s generation is at risk of ending up poorer than their parents.1 Failing to close the gap in unemployment rates between Canadian youth and people of prime-working age would mean missing out on a nearly $30B lift to our economy.2 Young people deserve a chance, and that’s why we created Future Launch. If youth fail, we all fail.”
The next page (click here3) is entitled ‘Humans Wanted: How Canadian Youth Can Thrive in the Age of Disruption.’ It says, in part:
“In the coming decade, half of all jobs will be disrupted by technology and automation. Some will change dramatically. Others will disappear completely, replaced by jobs that are yet to be invented. We are living through an era of radical change, with the latest advancements in artificial intelligence and automation transforming the way we work,4 even in unexpected fields such as law and customer service.
“We discovered that the four million Canadian youth entering the workforce over the next decade are going to need a foundation of skills that sets them up for many different jobs and roles rather than a single career path. They will need a portfolio of human skills such as critical thinking, social perceptiveness, and complex problem solving to remain competitive and resilient in the labour market.
“We found that Canada is shifting from a jobs economy to a skills economy, and yet employers, educators and policy makers are not prepared. Here are four things you need to know about the coming skills revolution and the future of work:
Disruption Is Accelerating
Flexibility Is the Future
Digital Literacy Is Essential
We Need to Prepare for the Future of Work”
It takes time and effort to learn how to appeal to a hiring manager. It pays off in a message that’s well received by the people who need to receive it. The process has to begin before irreversible, non-refundable post-secondary decisions are made.
“Jobs are evolving at the same pace as iPhone upgrades,” according to Andrew Petter, President and Vice-Chancellor of Simon Fraser University. The more graduates universities produce, the more we’re going to need.5
One day, we may all be able to send our children and ourselves to university purely for the love of learning. Until that day comes, we’ll have to find ways to decrease rejection rates by improving the way we prepare our children to leverage their education so that they can build the life they want to live.
That’s why I founded Personal Due Diligence.
F. Neil Morris
Personal Due Diligence
A recent Bloomberg Businessweek article entitled, Is Your Job About To Disappear?: Quick Take, said this:
“Throughout much of the developed world, gainful employment is seen as almost a fundamental right. But what if, in the not-too-distant future, there won’t be enough jobs to go around? That’s what some economists think will happen as robots and artificial intelligence increasingly become capable of performing human tasks. Of course, past technological upheavals created more jobs than they destroyed. But some labor experts argue that this time could be different: Technology is replacing human brains as well as brawn.”
In his review of “The Golden Passport” in the April 10th New York Times, Andrew Ross Sorkin wrote, “The book is a richly reported indictment of the [Harvard Business School] as a leading reason that corporate America is disdained by much of the country … Citing a report from the Aspen Institute, [the book’s author Duff] McDonald explains that “when students enter business school, they believe that the purpose of a corporation is to produce goods and services for the benefit of society. When they graduate,” he continued, “they believe that it is to maximize shareholder value.”
The Real Threat of Artificial Intelligence appeared on the Opinion page of the New York Times Sunday Review dated June 24, 2017. It was written by Kai-Fu Lee, chairman and chief executive of Sinovation Ventures, a venture capital firm, and the president of its Artificial Intelligence Institute.
Clearly the debate is heating up. At some point, someone or a group of someones will decide the winner, if there is a winner. Others will hand down a verdict on whether or not the Harvard Business School should take the credit or the blame for how enthusiastically business has embraced technology.
Families about to engage with their children in discussions about post-secondary education might want to answer these questions: Will there be 40-hour-a-week jobs with benefits and retirement pensions? Where? What kinds of jobs will they be? What education will it take to qualify for them? It’s a start.
If there are days when it feels like the world is riding madly off in all directions, it probably is. Change is the culprit and it’s never happened this fast or in so many places at the same time. Nothing in our experience has equipped us to deal with it.
Parents who are sending their children to university in the current economic and technological climate expect that when their children graduate, the jobs they’ll be applying for will be as traditional and as plentiful as they were in their parents’ day. They may be in for a surprise.
Employment relationships aren’t what they used to be. Corporate tastes in university degrees have changed. We have to factor that into how we think about the role higher education is going to play in the life of our children and what their options are going to be. Change is a fact of life for real companies and organizations with real names. Our kids need to know which companies and organizations they are or are likely to be.
We also have to bear in mind that the cost of tuition has risen 40% in the last 10 years. That will continue. Over 50% of all jobs are now precarious. Over half of those jobs will be automated in the next 10 years. That, too, will continue.
The links in what follows will take you to articles and reports about the current environment and how it will impact on your young people and those of people you know. They feature GE’s Jeff Immelt (#4), MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson (#12), McGill’s Suzanne Fortier (#12) and Google’s Sergey Brin (#16), among others.
- September 1969 — The first node of ARPANET installed at UCLA
- August 12, 1981 — IBM introduces its first personal computer
- July 15, 2014 — “Apple and IBM Forge Global Partnership to Transform Enterprise Mobility”
- August 4, 2016 — LinkedIn interview with GE CEO Jeff Immelt: “Culture is not just apps. It’s a combination of people and technology. If you are joining the company in your 20s, unlike when I joined, you’re going to learn to code. It doesn’t matter whether you are in sales, finance or operations. You may not end up being a programmer, but you will know how to code. We are also changing the plumbing inside the company to connect everyone and make the culture change possible. This is existential and we’re committed to this.”
- September 2016 — Deloitte survey “Transitioning to the Future of Work and the Workplace, Embracing Digital Culture, Tools, and Approaches”
- October 22, 2016 — Finance Minister Bill Morneau offered this advice at a Liberal Party gathering in Niagara-On-The-Lake: “Get used to the ‘job churn’ of short-term employment and career changes.”
- December 17, 2016 — Morneau’s advisory council on economic growth predicts that: “Fully half of all jobs will be automated during the next decade, making massive retraining a social and economic necessity.”
- January 14, 2017 — “Innovation key to achieving Trudeau’s resourcefulness.’” In order to move Canada’s reputation away from resources to resourcefulness, PM must break the mould of linear thinking.
- January 12, 2017 — World Economic Forum report: “The jobless world and its discontents, How can we prepare for a future where drones, 3D printing and automation replace jobs?”
- January 14, 2017 — The Economist: “Lifelong learning, How to survive in the age of automation” (Cover story and Special Report)”
- January 16, 2017 — “As Robots Take Jobs, Europeans Mull Free Money for Al
- January 19, 2017 — Davos 2017 – Issue Briefing: Jobs and the Fourth Industrial Revolution
- February 2017 — Maclean’s print edition: “When robots steal your job”, The real driver behind re-shoring is automation. Robotic jobs, not human ones, are coming back.
- February 2017 — Automa-nation: Will robots take your job? A new report suggests 42% of the Canadian job market is at risk.
- January 17, 2017 — IBM THINK Blog, IBM Cognitive Principles
- January 19, 2017 — World Economic Forum, Davos 2017: Google’s Sergey Brin on AI
We’re told that we’re in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We may not know how the story ends, be we do know that it will probably involve some form of advanced education. Our children have to be prepared.
Due diligence is behaviour designed to ensure before we put our money down that what we intend to buy and what the seller ultimately delivers are one and the same. Some would call that protecting an investment. Others would call it common sense. Personal Due Diligence calls it both.
Decisions about post-secondary education have consequences that involve life, career, family and financial stability. Too many parents believe that graduating from any institution of higher learning, university in particular, is a guarantee of well-paid, secure, predictable work. There are no such guarantees: only enhanced likelihoods. What we do know for sure is that we’re living in a post-industrial economy: yesterday’s manufacturing jobs and the ones that supported them are gone. What happened to blue-collar workers is now happening to white-collar workers. As Wikipedia puts it, “Information, knowledge, and creativity are the new raw materials of such an economy.”
According to the Conference Board of Canada: “The distinction between college and university is less important than the relevance of the discipline to the workplace, since it is relevance—along with supply and demand—that sets the market price for skilled talent.” Degrees in some disciplines are more likely to lead to work than others.
Research done in Alberta in 2005 showed that young people consult their parents in these matters more often than any other group and by a wide margin. But outdated ways of thinking, like old habits, die hard. Decisions based on wishful thinking rather than fact-based understanding of labour market and technological trends are some of the greatest risks our children face. The evidence has been accumulating since 2012 and the trend shows no sign of abating.
For now, the best defense against unemployment, underemployment and precarious employment for our children is due diligence. To quote The Economist, “[the] rise of the on-demand economy poses difficult questions for workers, companies and politicians,” and it comes with a considerable risk of displacement to which very few of us are immune. Due diligence is about minimizing the negative consequences of that risk. Or at the very least, knowing what the risks are and factoring them into the final decision to proceed with a university education. We should be making these decisions more with our eyes wide open and less with our fingers crossed.
In What is the Meaning of The Medium is the Message? Mark Federman, Chief Strategist, McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology wrote:
“Marshall McLuhan was concerned with the observation that we tend to focus on the obvious. In doing so, we largely miss the structural changes in our affairs that are introduced subtly, or over long periods of time. Whenever we create a new innovation—be it an invention or a new idea—many of its properties are fairly obvious to us. We generally know what it will nominally do, or at least what it is intended to do, and what it might replace. We often know what its advantages and disadvantages might be. But it is also often the case that, after a long period of time and experience with the new innovation, we look backward and realize that there were some effects of which we were entirely unaware at the outset. We sometimes call these effects “unintended consequences,” although “unanticipated consequences” might be a more accurate description.
“Many of the unanticipated consequences stem from the fact that there are conditions in our society and culture that we just don’t take into consideration in our planning. These range from cultural or religious issues and historical precedents, through interplay with existing conditions, to the secondary or tertiary effects in a cascade of interactions. All of these dynamic processes that are entirely non-obvious comprise our ground or context. They all work silently to influence the way in which we interact with one another, and with our society at large. In a word (or four), ground comprises everything we don’t notice.
“If one thinks about it, there are far more dynamic processes occurring in the ground than comprise the actions of the figures, or things that we do notice. But when something changes, it often becomes noticeable. And noticing change is the key.
“As McLuhan reminds us, ‘Control over change would seem to consist in moving not with it but ahead of it. Anticipation gives the power to deflect and control force.’”