Coevolving Innovations

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Education of the average Canadian worker and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The average Canadian worker has (at least) some college or university education.  This fact is counter to presumptions in a question on the first day at the World Economic Forum by Fareed Zacharia, in an interview with Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.  Zacharia asked:

What do you say to the average worker in Canada, who may not have a fancy college degree — and I’m thinking about the average worker in America or in Europe, as well — who looks out at this world and says “I don’t see what globalization is doing for me.  The jobs are going to South Korea and China and Vietnam and India.  Technology is great, but I can’t afford the new iPad Pro, and more importantly, this technology means that it increasinly makes me less valuable.  Why shouldn’t I be angry and involved the politics of progress?”

The response by Trudeau spoke to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the theme of the Davos conference.  He didn’t actually respond to the presumption on education.

In a national picture of educational attainment:

In 2012, about 53.6% of Canadians aged 15 and over had trade certificates, college diplomas and university degrees. This was an increase of 20.9 percentage points since 1990.

Level of education, 15 years of age and over, 1990-2012 (percent)
Learning – Educational Attainment, Employment and Social Development Canada

… says “The Indicators of Well-Being in Canada (2016)“, by Employment and Social Development Canada.

In the Economic Indicators for Canada,

Between 1999 and 2009, the proportion of adults aged 25 to 64 with tertiary education in Canada increased from 39% to 50%. In 2009, Canada had the highest proportion of the adult population with tertiary education among all reporting member countries of the OECD. By comparison, the 2009 OECD average was 30%.

Population aged 24 to 64 with college or university education and their employment rate, Canada, provinces and territories, and selected OECD countries 2009
Population aged 24 to 64 with college or university education and their employment rate, Canada, provinces and territories, and selected OECD countries 2009

… says Statistics Canada in “Educational Attainment and Employment: Canada in an International Context (February 2012)“.

If there’s going to be another industrial revolution, an educated population should be better positioned for it.  What’s the fourth industrial revolution?  The World Economic Forum describes “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond“:

The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

Navigating the next industrial revolution
Revolution Year Information
1 1784 Steam, water, mechanical production equipment
2 1870 Division of labour, electricity, mass production
3 1969 Electronics, IT, automated production
4 ? Cyber-physical systems

There are three reasons why today’s transformations represent not merely a prolongation of the Third Industrial Revolution but rather the arrival of a Fourth and distinct one: velocity, scope, and systems impact. The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.

The 7 technologies changing your world“, says the World Economic Forum, are:

  1. Computing capabilities, storage and access
  2. Big data
  3. Digital health
  4. The digitization of matter (i.e. digital printing)
  5. The internet of things (i.e. connected sensors)
  6. Blockchain
  7. Wearable internet

The World Economic Forum says “over one-third of skills (35%) that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed”, in “The 10 skills you need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution“.

Top 10 skills
in 2020 in 2015
1. Complex Problem Solving 1. Complex Problem Solving
2. Critical Thinking 2. Coordinating with Others
3. Creativituy 3. People Management
4. People Management 1. Critical Thinking
5. Coordinating with Others 5. Negotiation
6. Emotional Intelligence 6. Quality Control
7. Judgment and Decision Making 7. Service Orientation
8. Service Orientation 8. Judgment and Decision-Making
9. Negotiation 9. Active Listening
10. Cognitive Flexibility 10. Creativity

On the day one interview at the World Economic Forum, here is the response by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on Canada’s position.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, if that indeed is where we are, has tremendous benefits for humanity. Also, it could have real challenges. How we choose to adapt, how we choose in invest in education, how we choose to invest in infrastructure, how we choose to shift our economies to take advantage of the opportunities — the technologies, the computers — give to leverage new ways of success.

Yes, the world is changing. But I think we should be excited about it. Certainly, when I speak with young people, who see that the jobs that their parents had are not going to be the kinds of jobs that they get to have, and workers who are having to retrain and pick up new abilities have worries. But also, there are tremendous opportunities. I think that having a government who understands that investing in those new opportunities is investing in our future.

We have a lot of countries in the world who are, right now, talking about cuts and austerity as ways to get through. I’m the opposite. I believe that confident economies should be investing in their future. Investing in their people. That’s exactly what we’re going to be doing. In education, in infrastructure, in creating greater trade deals, to bring in products, to get out resources, and to be full participants in the global economy.

The optimism from the fall federal election in Canada is persisting into 2016.

1 Comment

  • Though I am in the US, I agree that austerity is a pessimistic reaction that further shrinks or undermines the economy and especially hits those lower in the socioeconomic tiers. I have been supportive if the Tax Wall Street Party here in great part because of their proposal for investment in 21st century infrastructure not only here, but worldwide. Perhaps far too much political will is squandered through fear tactics to allow people to think expansively with optimism in regard to their nation- again, at least here in the US. Not only is there global competition, there is also incredible room for global collaboration as we intermingle and mutually benefit from exchange.


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