19 Jan 2016
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Education leaders: It's a changing world and you need to act like it

By Catherine Knowles

Around the world education providers are opening up discussions about technology as an enabler, the workforce and how it's changing,  and the role of disruptive forces.

The latest Infosys research report on the topic, Amplifying Human Potential: Education and Skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, looks at these topics and more in greater detail.

Significantly, it finds that as the world enters into the fourth industrial revolution, there is increasing disparity between the outlooks of youths in developing and developed countries.

Furthermore, it finds that ultimately education systems need to renew their focus on problem solving, developing skills and embracing experimentation in order to empower young people in this digital transformation.

Here are the top findings from the report:

Technology recognised as important

Respondents acknowledged the role of technology skills in securing good career opportunities, with clear majorities in both emerging and developed countries stating that computer sciences subjects were key education tools.

Concerns over technology skills and confidence

In emerging economies, 68% of respondents are concerned that a lack of technology skills will make it increasingly hard for young people to advance their career prospects.

This, in part, could provide motivation for those young people to seek out the technical skills they need, the report finds.

Currently some 78% in emerging economies are confident that they have the necessary skills for a successful future career. In contrast, the sentiment is lower in developed countries, including 51% in Australia.

Technology skills and knowledge surge in emerging markets

The data further shows a large technical knowledge gap between emerging and developed economies.

For example, there is a 30% gap between Indian young men (81%) and their counterparts in the US (51%).

Among female respondents, the gap is 28% between India (70%) and the US (42%), and 37% with the UK (33%)

Job opportunity pressure builds

In developed economies, the youngest workforce feels acute pressure to find a well paid job.

According to the research, 76% of young workers believe their job prospects are worse than those of their parents' generation.

This is in stark contrast to the emerging economies surveyed, where a minority of youths believe their job opportunities are worse than those of the previous generations, according to the report.

Long-established strategies linked to tech understanding

Data also indicates that the disparity between emerging and developed economies' technological understanding is linked to developed markets' long-established education, employment and economic strategies.

Emerging economies surveyed have less institutional inertia to contend with, having embarked on their economic rises more recently, and therefore can more flexibly embrace emerging technology.

Emerging markets have also accelerated investments in education, buoyed by economic growth, the report shows.

Capabilities of existing education systems scrutinised

Nearly half of those polled in developed countries considered their academic education to be very or quite old-fashioned, and that it failed to support career goals, compared to around a third in emerging economies.

In the UK and Australia, 77% had to learn new skills themselves in order to do their jobs, as their school or university education had not prepared them for the workplace, compared to 66% in India.

The workforce of tomorrow also understands that as technology increasingly takes away routine tasks, they will need to pursue lifelong learning to develop new skills and focus on ‘soft’ skills that computers will not be as adept at handling, according to the report.

Development of right-brain skills (or 'soft skills') crucial

Apparent across all regions is the role that communications, relationship-building and problem-solving abilities play in modern, technology-driven workplaces.

While academic achievement was prioritised by between 50% and 36%, communications and on-the-job learning and problem-solving polled far higher.

Communication skills polled between 86% and 79%, while on-the-job learning polled between 85% and 76%.

Learning considered a lifelong journey

Between 78% and 65% of 16-25 year olds are willing to completely retrain if required.

Furthermore, around 80% of young people across all markets concur that continuous development of skills is essential to be successful in work

Job security increasingly important

Finally, the study showed that job security was important for today's youth, with the majority of them uninspired to work in volatile start-up ventures.

Many, especially in developed economies, are reluctant to set up their own enterprises, the report shows.

Instead, they prefer employment with established large and mid-size companies.

On top of this, the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers remains prevalent, but it is much starker in developed countries than developing countries.

Gender gap in technology skills remains unresolved

Young men, across all countries surveyed, are more likely to have existing IT knowledge and the desire to advance these skills.

In emerging markets as well as developed economies, the gap is far less pronounced with higher levels of perceived competency in the emerging economies.

However, in other developed economies, the gender gap in technology skills is significantly wider, according to the report.

Young people at the helm of disruptive forces

Overall, young people are aware that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will usher several disruptive forces in the job market: from the next-generation Internet of Things and Big Data, to work environments that will be drastically changed by automation, artificial intelligence and similar technologies, according to Infosys.

Today's youth understands that it must be agile, open to learning and capable of operating in a global environment to build a long-term career path, the report finds.

Dr. Vishal Sikka, Infosys CEO and managing director, says, "Young people around the world can see that new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, will enable them to reimagine the possibilities of human creativity, innovation and productivity.

“To empower these young people to thrive in this great digital transformation, our education systems must bring more focus to lifelong learning, experimentation and exploration - in addition to bringing computer science and technology more fundamentally into the curriculum."

“Every one of us can reimagine our circumstances, innovate and create, but our education systems must instill new ways of thinking, which include finding the most important problems to solve, collaborating across diverse groups and learning from quick failures - so that each one of us can find our own meaningful, purposeful work."

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