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Checking the crystal ball…

June 25, 2009

I recently discovered The World Future Society, from a post by George Siemens, one of the pre-eminent Canadian thinkers on open education (who also recommended this site).  I received in my inbox the other day 10 Predictions about the Future.  Obviously it caught my attention, and when I read the list, two of the predictions seemed to hit squarely home:

Forecast #4: Careers, and the college majors for preparing for them, are becoming more specialized. An increase in unusual college majors may foretell the growth of unique new career specialties. Instead of simply majoring in business, more students are beginning to explore niche majors such as sustainable business, strategic intelligence, and entrepreneurship. Other unusual majors that are capturing students’ imaginations: neuroscience and nanotechnology, computer and digital forensics, and comic book art. Scoff not: The market for comic books and graphic novels in the United States has grown 12% since 2006. –THE FUTURIST, World Trends & Forecasts, Sep-Oct 2008.

So, how does that affect the war for talent, demographic shift and organizational strategy?  If this is true, how will organizations find the skills that they are looking for?  Will they shift to micro-work or piece work from a growing group of freelancers?  Will this enable organizations to be more innovative?  Will the world of work place a higher value on these folks?  Will the versatilists rule the day?  From a training point of view, at first glance it tells us that there may be increasing need to provide generalist training and development for knowledge workers.  This brings us to another related forecast:

Forecast #7: Professional knowledge will become obsolete almost as quickly as it’s acquired. An individual’s professional knowledge is becoming outdated at a much faster rate than ever before. Most professions will require continuous instruction and retraining. Rapid changes in the job market and work-related technologies will necessitate job education for almost every worker. At any given moment, a substantial portion of the labor force will be in job retraining programs. — Marvin J. Cetron and Owen Davies, “Trends Shaping Tomorrow’s World, Part Two,” THE FUTURIST May-June 2008.

Continuous instruction and retraining you say?  Hm, that will be interesting.  I also read another post over at the Bamboo Project,  who thinks that this will be driven by the individual not by organizations (and she also suggests that performance support systems will be the backbone of the learning organizations provide).  Interesting concept.  She also talks about the composition of the workforce (in the US), which will be up to 30%.   Does that mean that training and development will split into different factions – organizational and individual?  That has always been a tension in training departments, as they exist primarily to fulfill organization’s needs, although most trainers I know advocate for individuals as well, trying to balance the needs.

What do you think about these predictions/forecasts?  What impacts do you see?

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