When the old is gone and the new is not yet available

After IT has been promising for years to change the world of work, it seems to be really taking off – networks cover almost every location, software is running barrier-free on various types of devices and huge amounts of data can be processed. The final attack on jobs with affinity to IT is taking place under the flag of digitization. Who actually gets hit slowly becomes clear. The probability is high that ALL „simple“ activities are now actively moved into computers. Affected are

  • Workers, who perform recurring fabrication and transport work,
  • Service providers, who take over simple tasks from customers,
  • Examiners, who only determine and key in a status,
  • Retailers, offering goods that are cheaper on the Internet and are even delivered to one’s home,
  • Clerks, who sift through, categorize and store documents,
  • Employees, transferring data to a computer,
  • Sellers, who advise customers in mega-stores,
  • and much more.

We are no longer standing in line to stamp our working hours.

Business models, processes and activities are digitized. During the transition it becomes unpleasant for many, as old doors are closing and the new doors have not yet opened. We must adapt our abilities and our thinking to the new conditions. In 2013, the OECD has described three essential skills of adults in working age for processing information.

  • Literacy
    Since Gutenberg enabled for many the access to printed matters, reading has become a fundamental skill. The aim is to understand, evaluate and use all kinds of text. This means the decoding of written words and sentences, their clarification and the interpretation of complex texts – but not their generation. Reading literacy is a basic pre-requisite in business and private contexts.
  • Numeracy
    The occurrence of numbers in the form of notches can be traced back over 30,000 years. The first interpretable signs in Mesopotamia, 6,000 years ago, were agricultural lists and tables. Mathematics has evolved over thousands of years. Already the ancient Greeks hoped to derive the explanations of the world from conclusive algorithms. Today, mathematical skills are indispensable when solving problems. It takes a natural handling of numbers and their mathematical connections as well as the talent to use, interpret and communicate the results. Computational skills are mandatory in business and private environments.
  • Problem solving in technology-rich environments (Digital Literacy)
    In the eighties of the last century, home computers started an unforeseeable development. As late as 1981, Bill Gates thought that a computer would never need more than 640 KB (0.64 MB) of main memory. Today Windows10 needs eight GB (8000 MB) or even 16 GB to be on the safe side. More than half of the world’s population, who also have access to electricity, have a computer. 2.8 billion are using social media and 1.6 billion are shopping online. This requires the ability to operate the corresponding hardware and software as well as the basic functions. This begins with the dial-in to the network, continues with the operation of the user interface and the processing of the information found, to the execution of practical tasks – both business and private. Typical applications are online banking, e-business, social networking, e-government, online training, online travel bookings or Car2Go bookings.

The present handiwork and the current jobs, especially simple tasks, will be taken over by robots and automated systems. This means that the new „thinking“ skills become important – reading and digital skills, numeracy skills, academic and technical expertise, problem-solving skills, critical thinking and creativity, cooperation and communication skills as well as coordination and leadership skills. But: the lack of craftsmen will greatly valorize these vital craft professions in the foreseeable future – possibly even make them more profitable than the new skills.

Bottom line: Without being able to read, calculate or operate the computer, today’s decisive channels and activities remain barred to you. No television program that does not refer to the expanded offers on the Internet. More and more transactions with the government have to be processed online. Only a few bank counters that are staffed and cost nothing. It is not surprising that many traditional professions and jobs are disappearing in this context. The future digital society and its new employment opportunities can only be guessed. When the old is gone and the new is not yet available, every man/woman for itself. In this situation it is important to actualize its reading skills, numeracy and digital literacy, since whatever comes up is based on it. Maybe we can have in the near future a look at those emerging new jobs.

P.S.: Nonetheless, the more manually gifted should not be tempted to strive for the unloved STEM professions (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), because most crafts will still be needed in the future. No one lives in a virtual castle or shower with a shower app or update his stuck window.