Category Archives: The state of the world

Writing, reading and the lay of the land

“The greatest benefit of writing is that it provides the tool by which society can record information consistently and in greater detail, something that could not be achieved as well previously by spoken word. Writing allows societies to transmit information and to share knowledge.”

Wikipedia, History of Writing

In the 5000 years since mankind invented writing (somewhere between 3400 and 3300 BC), we’ve learned how to store, sift through and find patterns in the 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data we generate about ourselves every 24 hours. The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) most recent report How much data is generated each day? focused on three key areas: Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Solving the problems of the Global Commons, and Addressing global security issues.

Our children are going to inherit this planet, or one that will closely resemble it. The better we prepare them for the transition, the better the odds that they’ll experience job security, a good life and the means to continue feeding, clothing and sheltering themselves.

“As assumptions about growth models are overturned, the international balance of power continues to fray, and scientific and technological breakthroughs promise to transform economies and societies, the unique platform provided by the Forum helps leaders from all walks [of] life to prepare for exponentially disruptive change.”

World Economic Forum: How much data is generated each day?

The 7.7 billion of us on planet Earth are in the midst of unprecedented change. We’ve built our civilization based on higher education courtesy of the world’s 28,077 universities. Our children’s way of life will depend on how wisely they choose and apply that education, and that they bear in mind that its value will lie in the eye of the employer.

By 2025, enrollment in those universities will stand at 262 million. When they graduate, those students will discover redefined employee/employer relationships and academic credentials that will be more valued in certain circumstances than in others. This is already happening against a backdrop of a buyer’s market for knowledge and intellect.

These examples of what that world is up to were published between June 5th and June 7th, 2019. Each comes with its own set of upstream and downstream implications.

Bloomberg Businessweek’s The Wealth Detective Who Finds the Hidden Money of the Super Rich (May 23, 2019) is a different but revealing insight into the workings of that world. So is the 2019 FORTUNE 500 ranking of America’s biggest corporations.

We’re a stone’s throw from starting the process of settling the Moon and Mars (NASA and Wikipedia respectively). On Earth or off, our children will be shaping and living with the consequences. It’s why we’ll continue to send them to school. Their ability to earn a living will depend on it.

We’re not in Kansas anymore. It won’t be long before some of us add, ” … or on Earth, for that matter.”

Sincerely,

Neil Morris

What would my grandfather say?

That 28,077 universities are operating around the world speaks to how society has benefitted from them for over 4000 years. We continue to put our money into our belief that universities progress and contribute to our children’s future wellbeing. We go so far as to make sacrifices and incur debt so that our children might attend. So do grandparents.

But progress comes at a price. The new displaces the old, how we work and at what is transformed or replaced, there are winners and there are losers. The process never stops: if it did, I wouldn’t have been able to write this and you wouldn’t be reading it.

Technology is progress and we have to equip our children to adapt to it because we can’t stop it. Choosing the right education for the times will be a critical component of the choices we make, if we’re to believe what The New York Times published in ‘The Hidden Automation Agenda of the Davos Elite’ (please see below). Management plans to accelerate the automation that began in earnest on the shop floor and has now spread to offices and white-collar jobs that were once considered untouchable. The process dates from when the world’s first commercial computer was installed in the U.S. in 1951, and we’re living with the results.

Not all jobs being done by humans will be eliminated. Many are being upgraded and call for leading edge education and training and new ones are being created. But it will have to be the right education. The old ways are disappearing and jobs along with them. That could impact on 40% of all jobs within the next 15 years. In 15 years of working in transition counselling, I met face-to-face with 2133 people where they worked who were displaced because they couldn’t or wouldn’t adapt.

My grandfather’s generation lived through the Great Depression, World War II and Korea. It used its survival instincts to make it through. He would have argued that conditioning our children to expect that a good job will be waiting for them once they graduate has dulled those instincts. He would have likened higher education to fishing tackle. It isn’t the rod that catches the fish, it’s the fisherman. Choose the wrong bait, cast or troll in the wrong part of the lake at the wrong time of day and there’ll be no fish to fry come evening.

The worldwide pool of students from which employers will draw graduates will reach 262 million by 2025. Those who dangle the right degree in front of the right employer in the right place at the right time and persevere will land a job.

But are we teaching our children how to fish or how to read the lay of the land? In ‘The Prosperity Initiative’ (1991), the Government of Canada warned that:

“Canadians are asking what the future holds for themselves and their families. In a profoundly changing world, they know that traditional strategies are no longer enough to provide economic security and prosperity, and protect our environment. New approaches are needed to meet the challenges that confront us—challenges that threaten our ability to generate new jobs, our standard of living, and our social programs.”

It went on to say that we’d have to extend basic education from 13 years to 17 years by the year 2000 to cope with the world we’d be living in. In 2012, twenty years after that caveat and notwithstanding their degrees, as many as 300,000 graduates were working as unpaid interns in this country because “they couldn’t find work in their chosen field.” Despite the number of options open to them and the amount of time they had to weigh them, how did they manage to misread the labour market as badly as they did? What should they have known? Where should they have learned it? What had become of their survival instincts?

What follows is a snapshot of the lay of the land:

So is this from ‘Private education, A class apart’ (The Economist, Apr. 13th-19th):

“IF SPENDING IS a measure of what matters, then the people of the developing world place a high value on brains. While private spending on education has not budged in real terms in the rich world in the past ten years, in China and India it has more than doubled. The Chinese now spend 5% of household income on education and the Indians 4%, compared with 2.5% for the Americans and 1% for the Europeans. As a result, private schooling, tuition, vocational and tertiary education are booming in developing countries.”

Forbes reports that in the U.S., students are carrying US$1.5 trillion in outstanding loans. They and others describe the situation as a crisis. Bloomberg News reports that consumer insolvencies in Canada have risen to an 8-year high. This may not be the best time to invest in the wrong education.

This is the hand we’ve been dealt, and we’re not in Kansas anymore. Employers are building 21st century, Fourth Industrial Revolution workforces, not 20th century workforces.

There are life-altering decisions to be made. To help parents work their way through them is why Personal Due Diligence exists. Your first conversation with us will cost you nothing. Not calling could cost a great deal more.

That’s what my grandfather would have said.

The labour market: grizzlies and streams where the salmon run

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.

Neil Morris
President
Personal Due Diligence

The art of getting hired

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
F
lexibility 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
President

Personal Due Diligence

Everything old is new again, but with a twist

Twenty-five years ago, people in the know predicted that we would work at five different careers before we retired. They were short on specifics, but their model left no doubt that people would have to re-educate themselves to qualify for those new careers. They didn’t mention the part about bills to pay and mouths to feed.

The future they predicted is here, but with a twist. Twenty-five years ago, university was a lot more affordable than it is now. Incomes were more predictable and more secure. So were pensions.

The mounting cost of sending children to university is becoming more and more painful for more and more families. Which makes RBC Future Launch’s candor so refreshing and so necessary:

“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.

 “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, even in unexpected fields such as law and customer service.”

What RBC proposes is commendable. But its target market is university students and graduates who’ve already put their money down. Many of them may already have limited their employment and career options. They invested in a future relationship with an employer in a context called the labour market inside another context called an economy. They understood little or nothing about either.

What they chose to study was up to them. What the labour market and the economy will have to say about that will be up to someone else. We don’t teach our children that. RBC is proposing a cure to a problem that already exists. Kudos to them. But we need something concrete to prevent the problem in the first place. Personal Due Diligence is that something.

We’re told that the more graduates we produce, the more graduates we’re going to need. But parents and their children need to know where the jobs will be before their first tuition cheque comes due. Our governments are showing no signs of preparing lists with timetables of occupations that have been earmarked for disruption or obsolescence, let alone notes about how it’s going to happen and when. That’s something families will have to do on their own because once size does not fit all.

While we’re at it, we may want to pay special attention to what it’s costing financially, physically and emotionally to send our children there. ‘Hunger And Homelessness Are Widespread Among College Students, Study Finds’ is the title of a National Public Radio report about a survey done by Temple University in Philadelphia and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab in Madison.

We can’t hope our way to a solution. We have to build one. In an address on September 3, 2008, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said, “Change is not a destination, just as hope is not a strategy.”

On January 23, 2009, CBS NEWS posted an open letter to President Barack Obama from Dr. Benjamin Ola Akande. Dr. Akande is an economist, scholar and Dean of the Business School at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. The title of his letter was ‘Hope Is Not A Strategy.’ You can find the full text by clicking here. This is an excerpt:

“Yet, the fact remains that hope will not reduce housing foreclosures. Hope does not stop a recession. Hope cannot create jobs. Hope will not prevent catastrophic failures of banks. Hope is not a strategy.”

Our youth must win so that we all can win. That’s why Personal Due Diligence exists.

Neil Morris
Founder & President
Personal Due Diligence

+1 905.273.9880
info@personalduediligence.ca

Three articles, our children, and food for thought

 

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.