What will our workplaces be like in 10 years' time?
The future of work impacts on many sectors in Northern Ireland, from business to recruitment to education. We speak to three business leaders here about their thoughts on the topic
Elaine Smyth, director of innovation community at Catalyst Inc
The Knowledge Economy Report 2017, produced by Catalyst, researched the impact of automation on businesses in Northern Ireland.
Until this point we understood the predicted impact in the UK and the US, but when we understood that 500,000 jobs would be affected in Northern Ireland over the next 10 years, we felt the need to act.
With this in mind, we held the first Future of Work Summit in 2018 with Ravin Jesuthasan as one of our keynote speakers.
Ravin, a global thought leader on the future of work, challenged our thinking through delivering compelling evidence that although some jobs (or tasks within jobs) may be at threat, there was an incredible opportunity if we only realised how to embrace it.
At Catalyst we have 900 entrepreneurs and start-ups participating on our programmes, 174 innovation companies based across our four campuses and 40 strategic partners. Each company, regardless of size or stage, will be impacted by the future of work.
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Catalyst is committed to supporting businesses as they grapple with tough decisions on how they effectively invest in technology and design a future-ready workforce.
We also join with many industry leaders to provide deep insights and recommendations to education institutions, helping them understand the skills needed for the jobs of the future — this includes new talent and the re-skilling of existing workers.
Gone are the days of a job for life. The experience of our young people will be one of much more variety and opportunity. It is predicted that young people today will have an average of 17 jobs in five different sectors throughout their working lives.
The upcoming Future of Work Summit on May 29 has been carefully curated to provide education leaders and business leaders with the inspiration, information and, most importantly, actionable insights to ensure even greater success.
It’s an important topic and we believe it must be high on the agenda for everyone in our society.
Professor Gillian Armstrong, director of business engagement for Ulster University Business School
As a leading provider of entrepreneurial education, research and impact, the Ulster University Business School is shaping future growth and learning through innovative, new educational models.
A focus on disruption by developing more entrepreneurial thought and action will be important as we seek to provide joined-up solutions to prepare students and organisations for their collective work futures.
Through a culture of collaboration with business, professional bodies and international university institutions, the requirements for an increased focus on future skills, multi-institutional pathways, personalised curriculums and offerings for lifelong learning services are developing quickly.
The cultural change so often called for in higher education to help address future-of-work challenges is well under way within the Ulster University Business School, and we look forward to providing an insight into the many innovative solutions that are developing with and for business at the current time (The Future Skills Report International Delphi Survey, 2019).
Co-creation of opportunity and research-informed teaching is fundamental to the development of curriculums, and a focus on learning and growing with 21st century skills is commonplace.
Students today often need confidence in being creative and skills in thinking about complex, ill-structured and real-world problems of the future.
In relation to lifelong learning and the shift to work in order to continuously engage and learn (McGowan, 2019), the Ulster University Business School is increasingly working alongside organisations in the development of highly relevant and progressive programmes that support emerging skill requirements and career development.
The innovative approach to developing new educational models, and how the Business School is engaging with business and disrupting traditional learning models, is well recognised.
The recent Knowledge Economy Report produced by Catalyst highlights skills and increasing innovation within businesses as key factors that need to be addressed to accelerate growth in current times.
Striking features of UUBS’s dynamic approach are the flexibility, agility and innovation in the university’s response and the multi-disciplinary programme offerings, coupled with the utilisation of an advanced virtual learning environment that supports highly personalised and authentic learning experiences.
In recent years, UUBS has supported the Assured Skills Academies, the development of short courses and customised programmes, and apprenticeship offerings that support skills development and the retention and development of exceptional talent within the region.
Through strong business collaboration and the engagement of work and study simultaneously, the Business School is ensuring innovative and contextualised learning within the region that will ensure that students at all stages of their career not only survive but can thrive amid the challenges to come.
Jackie Henry, office senior partner for Deloitte NI
What do future jobs look like?
Driven by accelerating connectivity, new talent models, and cognitive tools, the world of work is changing. As the influence of robotics, AI, the gig economy and crowdsourcing grows, jobs are being reinvented, creating a workforce of digital natives who bring a technology-based approach to solving problems.
This means reconsidering how jobs are designed.
As machines replace repetitive tasks traditionally done by people in sectors like transport, medicine, education and entertainment, we believe new jobs, professions and responsibilities will be created.
While the world is talking about the 35% of the UK workforce that could be replaced by automation in the next 20 years, we are talking about the 3.5 million new jobs it’s going to create, and we want to encourage an environment where people can develop the new skills they require.
At Deloitte, our current growth projections mean we expect to have 1,000 staff in Belfast by the year 2022.
The key to successfully setting up the new teams has been nurturing our own talent.
As the average shelf life of a technical skill in the workplace is now only 2.5 years, we need our people to be adaptable, with a skill set based around communication, creativity and cognitive skills.
This led us to collaborate with the Department for the Economy and Ulster University Business School on our BrightStart programme, an award-winning Level 6 higher apprenticeship scheme.
This five-year professional development programme helps school leavers to gain an honours degree (BSc in Business Technology) through Ulster University Business School as well as recognised professional qualifications and a job at Deloitte, working to solve our clients’ most complex problems.
This innovative talent initiative means we can attract school leavers who are curious and open to learning, and offers an exciting start to their career.
It has also given us added confidence in recruiting a diverse workforce in emerging technology disciplines.
To get the best out of their people, it is also important that organisations offer them a working experience that suits them. Offering career breaks, broadening progression opportunities for high-potential staff, facilitating secondments and offering in-house or external development training are options to consider.
People of all ages are moving jobs in search of the right experiences.
As a result, we need to think about how we design organisations that people can integrate into quickly, and ensure that knowledge is retained in the organisation after people leave.
Supporting our current team and those we want to join in future is essential.
Businesses need to invest in their people — growing, developing and nurturing their skills to be ready for the future of work.