Learning may be the work in the network age, but that does not mean that learning will get you the work. Inge De Waard discusses this in MOOCs change education, but jobs decline in a knowledge era:
The simple truth is that not all of us get jobs even when graduating from universities, and if MOOCs add to that particular degree market (universities), we are stuck, for indeed if even the ones that graduate now are not always finding jobs, with the declining job market in mind, most of the new wave of graduates will get stuck as well. A knowledge era is a fine thing, it sounds great … for a minority of people. So how do we (re)find a balance between jobs and people having them?
I’ve highlighted Inge’s question because other people are asking similar ones. Much of my professional focus is about learning at work, and improving how people collaborate, cooperate and innovate in internet time. I call it sense-making for the connected workplace. Helping people adapt to this type of workplace is a big challenge. An even bigger challenge, for which I do not have any simple answers, is: How do people adapt to a post-job society?
Many MOOC’s are based on an educational model that has a curriculum from a body of knowledge that, so the logic goes, when mastered will prepare someone for meaningful work. Improving one’s education to get a job is often a primary motivator for participation. It’s the way the system has worked for decades. The “job” was the way we redistributed wealth, making capitalists pay for the means of production and in return creating a middle class that could pay for mass produced goods. That period is almost over. America has hit peak jobs TechCrunch informs us. The New York Times calls it the rise of the permanent temp economy. The recession, combined with technology, is killing middle class jobs, reports the Associated Press.
We will not find a rebalance between jobs and people having them.
We have connected the world so that data and information can flow in the blink of an eye. There are fewer information asymmetries, as companies like Amazon bust down one industry after another. One recent example is a local startup that is reducing information asymmetry in the used car business. This interconnectedness and increasing computational power will continue to automate work and outsource any job that can be standardized. New businesses are employing fewer employees, while manufacturing is moving to an increased use of robots.
One of my clients is an educational institution and I was heartened to learn that they are moving away from job preparation to a focus on entrepreneurship. They see the numbers. Their graduates are not getting jobs. Creating our own work will be the only option for many of us.
Ross Dawson provides some good advice on what we can do to prepare for a post-job economy.
As I often say, in a connected world, unless your skills are world-class, you are a commodity.
However there are three domains in which individuals and organizations can transcend commoditization and push their value creation to the other end of the spectrum, where they can command their price and choose their work.
The three domains are:
- EXPERTISE …
- RELATIONSHIPS …
- INNOVATION …
The future is stark. There will be a large and increasing divide between those who have one or more of these core strengths, and those who do not and whose livelihoods are on an ongoing path of commoditization.