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To Prepare for the Workforce of the Future, Start Upskilling Employees Today

The “workforce of the future” can be an anxiety-producing phrase, conjuring images of a soulless world where the robots did indeed come for everyone’s jobs. The truth is, the robots are already here, and they’re automating repetitive tasks, not jobs. But the picture doesn’t have to be grim. Businesses that focus on reskilling, upskilling, and personalized education can help their employees not only adapt to today’s technological changes but also develop a mindset that embraces continual learning. Watch the video to learn more about the future of work.

[Video Transcript]

Jamie Perkins, Director of Learning Strategy and Certification, Autodesk: You have to think about your workforce as a garden. It needs maintenance; it needs constant watering and tending to in order to grow.

Lisa Campbell, Chief Marketing Officer, Autodesk: Technological change is the accelerator for the future of work. Because when you think about it, we are automating tasks. We don’t automate jobs; we automate tasks. So, as an example, I might’ve been somebody who, at a construction site, drilled holes in a ceiling. Now, we have robots that do that with submillimeter accuracy. Now, my job might be that I’m maintaining that robot.

Joe Speicher, Senior Director of Impact Innovation, Autodesk: The future of work is kind of an all-encompassing catch-all phrase for when folks want to talk about how work-labor markets, corporates are engaging with the workforce. And I think that it’s a little bit of a misnomer simply because when we say, “the future of work,” we’re talking about the present day. These changes are happening today.

Campbell: We’re starting to find that the pandemic is accelerating adoption of technology and of automation. Think about things like safety in a manufacturing facility, safety on a construction site.

Speicher: We actually see this today, where you see shortages in the construction sector. And that is because the skills and competencies that are necessary for those jobs today are new and changing and evolving. And, therefore, the demand is there for higher-skilled, more technically enabled construction workers and manufacturing workers. And yet the supply of labor has not yet caught up.

Campbell: Everybody is afraid robots are coming to take our jobs. I don’t believe that automation takes jobs. It automates tasks. And that’s a big difference.

Speicher: That’s actually a uniquely American view that technology is going to put me out of a job. In looking at the Japanese market, it’s actually, technology is going to save them from some of the challenges brought on by a shrinking labor market. Thirty percent of the Japanese population is over 60. Because you have declining labor-market participation, you actually need to figure out how to increase productivity in the labor market to maintain the same level of growth. Technology is a solution to that.

Campbell: My job is going to evolve where I need now to be upskilled and reskilled so that I actually can add new skills that are needed, that were never needed before, to my portfolio, which is going to change the nature of my job.

Perkins: If you go back to the 1980s, personal computers drove a technological change. They changed tasks of clerical workers, of workers across a variety of functions from office jobs to warehouse jobs, and that was profound. And that shifted and transformed a lot of work. The difference here, though, is that AI and machine learning, in particular, can go well beyond any single job function. So it’ll impact all industries. It tends to impact all jobs, but it has an outsized impact on jobs that are really repetitive and tend to be lower level in terms of skill requirement. And those are where we see this sort of primary disruption.

Speicher: I think we actually need a global campaign that the notion that you come ready-made out of college, or a high school degree or whatever degree, ready to work for the rest of your life is no longer the case. What that means is that governments need to invest in the educational sector. Educational institutions need to invest in continuous learning.

Perkins: Learning is becoming more personal. It’s becoming personalized. And the personalization is being driven by data. The data is a capture of your behavior. What you do inside tools. So we look at Autodesk tools like Fusion 360. A user’s own data can be a roadmap for them on how they move forward. So if you’re in Fusion and you’re spending most of the time in a certain workspace, in the CAD workspace, and you’ve never touched the CAM workspace, we can serve that up to a learner.

Campbell: I think employers have a big role to play here. Number one, they can shorten the distance between learning and work because you can actually embed new learning in your work environment. So I’m learning the skill while I do my job, or I can have new learning paths available to me so that I can take online courses during the workday, or you just make it accessible to me so that I can do it even on my own time.

Perkins: And thinking of your job as sort of living, breathing, and changing is pretty exciting because you have this wave of deep, fast tech change sweeping over whole industries, potentially displacing whole task categories and workers in those categories. So it’s like, how do you meet that wave with on-ramps into those new opportunities that are truly being created? I do think alternative forms of education and alternative entry points into the labor market is one of the ways that we can start to address this.

Speicher: If we get this right—if we are successful in our ability to one, change people’s mindsets to the notion of continuous learning; two, have the foresight to assess the jobs and skills and competencies of the future; three, help folks learn appropriately in those jobs and skills; and four, make sure that the access is equitable for everyone—I think that we will see a more equitable, prosperous future for everyone doing their best work, doing their most creative, fulfilling, meaningful work that they can do.

Campbell: I’m excited about that—that new technology, new automation will actually help us impact the world so that what we design and build is going to be better. And if you’re a worker today, that’s what you have to look forward to is to figure out how to use this technology to make the world better.

About the Author

The Autodesk Video team creates compelling customer stories and thought-leadership videos.

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