Can We Prepare for Jobs of the Future? |

Can We Prepare for Jobs of the Future?

When we imagine the future, many of us try to envision the technological advances that the next decades will produce. It is almost certain that computers, robots, self-driving cars, and artificial intelligence will be part of our daily routine. How can we prepare ourselves and our children to be well-equipped for futuristic careers? Is it wise for today’s students to concentrate mainly on computer and tech fields? Are STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) the only relevant courses for the coming decades?

To get an expert opinion on this topic, I interviewed Dr. Alia Amir, a social scientist and senior lecturer in English Linguistics at Mid-Sweden University. Dr. Amir has taught university students for over 15  years and has insider knowledge of which subjects and topics are currently trending among young adults. Dr. Amir is also involved in researching society, language, and technology, which gives her insights into what kind of social patterns might emerge in the next 10-15 years. Her predictions reveal that there will be a need for many different specialties and skills, and, while machines and artificial intelligence may take over some jobs, reading, writing, social development, and creativity will still be valued and necessary.

Here are the insights that Dr. Amir provided about careers of the future.

Q: Based on your experience, what skills will be needed for careers of the future? Are there any skills that won't be relevant anymore?

Dr. Amir: Writing and analytical skills are some of the key basic skills for the future. With people traveling more and more in the last two decades or so, language learning has become fashionable in modern times. Knowing more than one language might not be in high demand in big numbers, but some professions of the future will involve the skills of bi/multilinguals. Even with the advent of machine learning, bi/multilingual skills of humans will be required in society. When it comes to specific languages, some of the huge languages in terms of the number of speakers are Chinese, Urdu/Hindi, Spanish and Arabic. Knowing some basic skills of either or some of them can be of value for the future.

Many professions might change their outlook in the future if legislation of any sort appears in the next ten years on traveling. I can foresee that due to climate change and environmental damage, there will be  pressure on society to travel less - and rightly so. While a complete ban on traveling by air is unlikely, many European countries already promote traveling in climate-safe ways. Some universities even ask their researchers to keep track of their carbon footprint. The governments are also under a lot of pressure to put a cap on traveling, but I do not think there will be any sort of legislation to limit traveling in the next 10-15 years. The course of history depends vastly on climate change and the climatic conditions locally and globally.

Some professions which will never go out of fashion are doctors, engineers, and lawyers. The reason is that with the rise in war and health conditions, any kind of caregiving profession will be needed. There are many career paths for engineers and technicians. Similarly, lawyers and their expertise are needed in any large global or international company. Last but not least, driving skills and manual labor will still be needed in the next 20 years.

Q: What specific careers do you think will be most important in the future, say 20 years from now?

Dr. Amir: There is already a gradual change in society since the advent of computers and the internet. The working style has changed, but COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns have taught us that, although remote work is possible in some professions, it is not the case for all professions. Similarly, while there was a shift to meet online during the peak years of the pandemic, slowly and gradually, there is a shift back to physical on-site work. This teaches us that change in society is always gradual.

In 20 years time, many of the present-day professions will still be around, even though new forms of technology like AI [artificial intelligence] will improve and be used in many contexts, many different forms of manual work and human work will still be valuable, for example, a lot of data has been produced globally in the last 20 years or so. Analytic skills and professions involving research will be even more valuable in the future.

In the present times, many technology-based careers have emerged, for example, social media influencers and vloggers, etc. – these professions require project management, planning, researching, writing, and public speaking. This does show us that some of the basic skills – writing and analytical skills - can be used, and are being used in modern-day professions.

Q: Do you have any insight you'd like to share about preparing today's youth for careers of the future?

Dr. Amir: In order to prepare today's youth for future careers, I would suggest community leaders, parents and teachers provide a vast range of practical experiences, for example, organizing walks, projects, and picnics for the communities. There is nothing better than learning by doing, and by getting practical knowledge about a vast range of things. Create projects which are in the format of project-based learning, which helps the youth to do independent research and critical thinking. Most importantly, reading, leisurely writing, and being able to participate in discussions are key skills valid and necessary for all times. There is a lot of current cutting-edge research which shows the value of group work, and how knowledge at various levels gets transferred from one individual to another through social interactions. Simply put, social experiences are key for cognitive and social development.

As parents, while we guide our children through their school years, it is worthwhile to reflect on what the future might bring, and which skills might best lead to a meaningful career. Fortunately, there will likely be a need for many different skills. The mathematicians, engineers, and computer experts will definitely be relevant, but so will the writers, critical thinkers, healers, and creators. InshaAllah, our children will all find a way to channel their strengths and interests into a fulfilling, impactful career that will make the world of the future a better place.

Laura El Alam is a first-generation American Muslim and the founder of Sea Glass Writing & Editing A prolific writer, Laura has published articles in numerous magazines and is currently writing a children's picture book for publishing company Ruqaya's Bookshelf, due to be released in 2023, inshaAllah. A wife and mother of five, Laura lives with her family in Massachusetts.

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