There is no doubt that our rapidly changing world will look quite different ten years from now. Technology will have advanced, resulting in new careers and the disappearance – or great reduction in the number – of some jobs that are common today.
Economy futurist Guy Lundy says that it is important to start preparing our learners now to be ready for a changing world and job market in 2030.
These jobs will cease to exist or be less prevalent by 2030:
‘Today, companies are already developing automated machinery that will be able to replace manual labourers in ten years or less. A good example is a company that is currently developing an automated tree planter. This machine will be able to plant a whole forest in a couple of days, replacing the 30 to 40 people who are needed to plant a forest today.
‘The same is happening on farms. Machinery already exists that ploughs, plants and harvests without the need for human intervention. These technologies are advancing and becoming more prevalent.’
Mid-management or supervising roles
‘In organisations like banks, many menial tasks used to be done by hand. Now, a lot of these tasks are being automated, which means that fewer people need to be employed, and supervision is becoming unnecessary.
‘At the same time, flattening of organisations is taking place, which means that, thanks to technology, senior management is able to push work straight through to lower-level employees, making in-between supervision redundant.’
Traditional retail roles
‘The retail sector will become an online destination, and traditional retail job opportunities will become fewer. Smartphones have made online shopping much more accessible, and Covid-19 has most certainly helped traditional shoppers adapt to an online environment.
‘A good example is the Checkers Sixty60 app that was launched at the beginning of lockdown, making Checkers one of the biggest online retailers in South Africa today. If it weren’t for lockdown, and people fearing to physically shop, it would have taken them years to grow. Checkers achieved massive growth in a matter of months compared to the early adopters like Pick ’n Pay and Woolworths, that took about 15 to 20 years to grow their online market to comparable levels.
These jobs will emerge or become more prevalent in the future:
Web and software developers (coding)
‘Technology companies are not the only businesses that rely on computer coding nowadays. More and more businesses, including businesses in finance, manufacturing and healthcare, are incorporating computer code to perform certain functions. As more companies rely on computer programmes to run their businesses, computer programming will become more important in the future.’
Lundy believes that South African schools that are busy implementing coding as part of the curriculum should make an effort to make technology fun. ‘Coding in particular is quite complex and complicated. It’s a little bit like maths – you lose kids quite quickly if they’re not enjoying it. Coding should teach them how to make funky little things that they can take home and play with.’
‘Game technology, which is used to build online games, is also increasingly being used for marketing and training purposes. For example, many international companies are using gaming technology to create fun and interactive training programmes for new employees.
‘As much as it pains parents that their children are playing games all day long, it’s important that children are exposed to gaming, as I believe it’s going to be a very important career, not only now, but also in the future.
‘Teachers can expose learners to games by incorporating them in their lessons. My son’s English teacher uses the game Minecraft to build things and then asks the class to write a descriptive piece about what they have built. Or he asks them to build something in Minecraft and then to write about what they built and why. Not only is it fun for kids, but they’re also being familiarised with a very important technology of the future.’
‘If you look at all the successful countries that have grown dramatically in the past 100 years or so, like Japan, United States, Germany, France and China, it is clear that their success is driven by engineers. The reason why China is growing so much at the moment, especially in areas such as aviation and heavy machinery, is because they are producing so many engineers. Everyone is competing to get their new ideas into the market.
‘South Africa definitely has a lack of engineers; the more we produce, the more successful our country will be. This of course means that schools need to sharpen their focus on maths and science, making it fun and easy for kids to understand.’
It’s great if engineers develop great products, but we also need people who understand the business side of things; how to commercialise these products. Many engineers don’t ever question whether their products will be seen as useful by potential customers, which means that their efforts are never commercially successful. We need to raise up a business-savvy generation that will be able to produce products that will make sense commercially and make a difference in people’s lives.’
Humans need human interaction, and Lundy believes that human-related careers will become increasingly more important in the future as computers and other technologies become more prevalent.
Many futurists predict that call centres will become completely computerised in the future, but Lundy disagrees. ‘People simply do not like to talk to a computer on the other side of the line, and I do not believe that this will change in the future.
Instead of teaching people how to do manual labour, it will be a good idea to shift people into a space of working with people; training people how to deal with people and their problems in an empathetic way.
‘Careers in healthcare, care for the elderly, social work and careers in hospitality will remain important careers in 2030.’
Highly technical mechanics
‘As more highly technical machines come into play and technology keeps advancing, we will need people who will be able to understand and service those machines. Upskilling people to deal with these machines will also be an important objective in the future.’
Bearing these many changes in mind, how are we preparing our learners to earn a living? There is a clear need to change the emphasis, and to recognise that many elements in our curriculum have their roots in 20th and even 19th century thinking. When one considers Lundy’s words, the future of jobs seems to fall into two broad categories: working with computers or working with people. Even where a child shows a natural bent toward one or the other, all children will still need skills from both broad streams.