Full STEAM ahead – the future of technology jobs

Vivek Daga, vice-president and country head UK and Ireland at Cognizant, talks about the need for an ongoing strategy to ensure students are prepared for a technological world

This year’s GCSE and A-level students have received their results and can now look forward to whatever is next, but future generations potentially face a new challenge: readying themselves for jobs that do not yet exist.

report by Cognizant’s Centre for the Future of Work proposes 21 jobs (such as cyber catastrophe forecaster, algorithm bias auditor and VR arcade manager) which may emerge over the next ten years –  jobs that should present new options to students considering how to best prepare for the future.

While the nature of work is changing due to automation and artificial intelligence (AI), the report points out that jobs are not going away and the future of work for younger generations is far from bleak. To succeed, one must focus on the innovative applications of technology and its resultant value.

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A human touch

Students today should rely not only on those highly sought-after digital capabilities, including STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), but also the wider business skills alongside heightened human empathy that set us apart from machines. It is, after all, how we work with and manage others that sets us apart as humans.

The AI revolution will create challenges but also a huge wave of opportunity for businesses and individuals who are prepared. Digital technologies are transforming businesses, but machines will always need humans. It takes people and their skills to fuel innovation, experimentation and creative collaboration.

Skills shortage

In July, World Youth Skills Day, run annually by the United Nations to educate the public on the importance of youth skills development, highlighted some pressing concerns. The UN cites that young people (15 to 24-year-olds) are currently three times more likely to be unemployed than other age groups, and are also ‘continuously exposed to lower quality of jobs, greater labour market inequalities and longer, more insecure school to work transitions’.

Addressing such a fundamentally complex issue is not easy, but needs to be tackled head-on.

The UK currently faces a shortage of skills anchored in STEAM subjects. This disconnect starts at an early stage due to a lack of immersive approaches that give young people the hands-on experiences that engage, inform and excite them to pursue careers in STEAM.

The UN cites that young people (15 to 24-year-olds) are currently three times more likely to be unemployed than other age groups.

Acknowledging the reality of how technology is transforming the way we work is key and World Youth Skills Day was a reminder that each day we need to be working with and preparing our children – the future leaders of the world – to develop the skills needed to thrive in a heavily technology-driven future.

Support systems in place 

The education system has an enormous part to play, with the UK government investing £20 million in an Institute of Coding to improve digital skills throughout the country, as well as the Department of Education’s broader STEM strategy.

There are also many charities and not-for-profits helping drive the youth skills agenda. Two of the many examples are the Stemettes, a social enterprise that seeks to inspire and support young women in STEM careers, and the Engineering Development Trust, which offers young people active learning experiences in STEAM-related careers.

Crucially, this is not just for government and the education sector to focus on – businesses and organisations also have a vital role to play in the development of future talent.

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This includes supporting students, from a very young age, to teach them how they can work with data and think creatively. Through Cognizant’s Outreach STEAM programme in the UK, we have inspired close to 200 primary school-age children about the jobs of the future.

Working together for a technological future 

Young people should be encouraged to consider a career in tech by ‘pulling’ them through generating interest and confidence, rather than ‘pushing’ them to cover the basics in maths and science, working with students and graduates every day to spark creativity, critical thinking and collaboration. They will then be equipped with the skills they need to progress in their professional journeys.

Technology is already ubiquitous, but there needs to be a concerted effort across the board to encourage the next generation to explore, innovate, further develop and apply technology.

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