Posted by Melissa Sariffodeen

Melissa is the Co-Founder and CEO of Ladies Learning Code. She's a fierce advocate for providing women and youth the critical skills, confidence and opportunities they need to become passionate builders - not just consumers of technology and to thrive in our increasingly digital world.

The Future of Work Begins With Education

This post was initially published on Medium here.

The current narrative of technology around the world is largely focused on the negative effects technology will have on jobs and employment — jobs lost to robots and ‘AI’. Changing this narrative became the focus of the G7’s first-ever Innovation7 last week in Turin, Italy focused on ‘People Centred Innovation’.

The Innovation7, or I7, was a gathering of industry representatives from the G7 countries to help to bridge industry and government in respect to innovation on three key themes: artificial intelligence, big data and the future of work. Country delegates represented a wide range of non-political expertise — all esteemed leaders within their domains and passionate about making the digital economy and society more open, inclusive and secure.

As a member of the Canadian delegation, my participation was focused on the changing nature of work and how we can support individuals to thrive in the face of change. From government incentives to reforming education to basic income — the I7 discussion on this theme was broad. But, as the day and discussions progressed the G7 countries converged on a common priority: education is paramount.

While technology will reduce or eliminate jobs, many others will be created. New jobs, however, will also require a new set of skills for success. The future of work will require us to focus on specializing in skills that are and will remain a unique differentiator between humans and machines. Skills like logical reasoning, complex problem solving, creativity, and coding will become ever more important to have, — not only in the tech industry — but in all industries affected by technology, such as finance, healthcare, public administration, and more.

To prepare for the changing nature of work countries around the world must start investing in developing a skilled workforce by prioritizing education across all sectors. Initiatives such as employee upskilling or retraining and associated tax incentives, the utilization of e-learning platforms and investment in early STEM education are some I7 suggestions. In Canada, we’re seeing investment in our workforce already take shape. Private sector organizations and academic institutions, like Shopify and Carleton, are developing unique workplace integrated training models that reimagines experiential learning and the relationship between academia and industry. The federal government has committed $50 million to teaching youth in K-12 coding and other digital skills. We’ve also seen an unprecedented investment in infrastructure to connect even the most remote parts of our country — an essential component to reduce inequality and achieve digital literacy for all.

Rebooting Canadian Classrooms

While these investments are significant, there is still much work to be done within traditional education to develop a culture and emphasis on lifelong learning with a focus on introducing these skills early — as early as preschool.

Across Canada, a focus on digital skills — building and not just consuming technology — is missing from most K-8 classrooms. If Canada is to realize its social and economic innovation ambitions, digital skills education must be embedded in our schools, libraries and homes — including formalizing new curriculum standards and more training for educators. Coding must be a core part of the classroom and be integrated with existing subjects like art, science, physical education and math. Done effectively, it can help provide youth context and relevance and help to connect coding to the real world and help youth develop future-proof skills such as problem solving and creativity. As an organization, we believe education ministries across Canada need to make this a priority and it’s our mission to work actively across the country to support these efforts.

Coding will undoubtedly play an important role in equipping today’s youth with the skills to succeed in the future. In order to harness this potential, we need to ensure Canada is ready to deliver on the demands of the future of work and that future begins with education.