• Makheni Zonneveld

#4 Future Readiness and Job-hunting

Updated: Jan 13, 2019

This post is part of the free Future Readiness service. This is the 4th in the 5-part series of answers to the first question. For the first 3 please click here If you have not yet subscribed please click here or watch the 4-minute video on the homepage of makheni.com.

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“Dear Makheni

My aunt advised me to subscribe to your list and ask my future readiness questions. I am a 24-year job-seeker. I am an unemployed Business Management graduate from Springs near Johannesburg. In the past 18 months I have tried everything to find employment. How can future readiness help me in my search for employment? Any job will do”. Linda (not her real name)


Dear Linda

I hope that you worked on your sales pitch (otherwise known as our cv) in the past week. As promised, this week you get the last input on selling your skills to prospective employers before the final input which is on selling your skills to non-employers.

You have raised the important issue of being an unemployed graduate so today we look into Future Readiness and education. This serious issue gets much attention but do we approach it properly? Are we solving the real problem? Are we asking the right questions?

Is the solution to equip all the schools with computers and teach learners computer literacy? The short answer is no. Adults think of solutions that were relevant in the past because we had to play catch-up when it comes to computer literacy. Let alone a ‘computer laboratory’, the born digital do not even use a computer. They use thumbs on mobile devices faster than you can say ‘enter!’.

They already have the basic digital skills that we learnt as adults. In fact, they are streets ahead of the adults who are talking about teaching them digital skills. The unemployed graduates we talk about every day are not computer illiterate because computer literacy is their native language. Linda, you know because you are one of them.

If that is the case, why is unemployment so high among the youth? Why do we have technological unemployment? The youth are products of an education system that is not Future Ready. We still approach education like we did before the second world war. You could learn skills in formal education that you would apply from the time you start working till you retire in the same organisation. If you remained in the same organisation you would get some sort of reward for what was called loyalty.

Now, let alone the job functions, the first organisation you work at will most likely not even exist when you reach retirement age. The technical skills that are needed in today’s workplace will be replaced by an app when the learners and students of today start working. Technical skills are becoming more and more simplified because of the use of templates. Unless you are an IT professional, the main technical skill you need is how to click a mouse. In one of my previous lives I was a computer programmer. That was when we still had to write code from scratch for everything. Now anyone who can click a mouse can do far more than I could do with my knowledge of coding just by using a template and clicking away.

Unless they want to become IT professionals, the born digital already have the technical skills they need for the future workplace. Very soon building a physical machine that can replace thousands of people will be done at the click of a mouse and guess what, we will still be teaching mechanical engineers how to build the same machine instead of teaching them how to think of machines that solve more problems more efficiently. In the new economy you learn digital skills as you go along. That is why the lifelong learning mind-set is so crucial. If I had remained in IT I would have had to reinvent myself repeatedly because mainframe programming does not even exist any longer let alone languages such as Cobol and Natural and platforms such as Roscoe. Young IT professional have never even heard of them. That is how obsolete they are. I cannot emphasise this enough: You learn technical skills as you go along - not behind a desk five years before you apply them.

I can hear you thinking ‘Okay I get it; this is not what we should teach but what should we teach?’.

Before we solve a problem we need to understand it and define it properly.

We need to understand what the digitalisation and robotization of the workplace actually means. The more I listen to people the more I realise that they have a Science fiction-like idea of robotization - seeing robots as some giants from outer space that are going to take over the world.

Images of robots like these two do not help.

In fact, referring to robots as machines would help. Words like Artificial Intelligence do not help. Referring to AI as software definitely helps to put things in perspective. Using appropriate language helps like ‘people are creating clever software’ instead of ‘machines are getting cleverer’. Everyone knows that a machine is made by a human being and that it has no brain and everyone understands the idea of programming a machine.

Images like this one also do not help. They are used by people who equate the workplace of the future to Uber and Airbnb creating the impression that these businesses are run by some cool dude guy on a beach with a tablet or a laptop. Uber, Airbnb, Google, Yahoo, Facebook are brick and mortar businesses that employ people. They are app based but they are not apps.

Am I being pedantic? It may sound that way but in order to improve or transform or change any situation we need to really know what we are dealing with. The corporate is in a flat spin because of all the management hypes that are based on this science-fiction like thinking.

The focus of making schools Future Ready is usually on ‘how’ we should apply available technology to improve education like using e-learning. Even before we look at the ‘how’, a more important aspect of Future Ready education is the ‘what?’. The ‘what’ always precedes the ‘how’. Delivering old content with new methods and new tools will not get us anywhere. It’s like going to a wrong destination with a better mode of transport.

It starts with asking the right questions. What causes technological unemployment? It is the fact that our educational institutions churn out people with skills that no one needs. In fact, the world does not only have a problem of unemployment but that of unemployability. The opportunities are there but many people do not have 1. The required skills and 2. The right mind-set.

Images like these definitely help to put things into perspective.

In case you think that I exaggerate, there are people who do not realise that a robot is only a machine created and programmed by humans, the European parliament was busy with a debate on whether to give robots rights and responsibilities or not. They discussed whether an autonomous (self-driving) car should be held responsible for an accident. Those who are tasked with transforming education, transforming organisations or passing laws will not come up with the right answers. Individuals will not become Future Ready with this kind of thinking.

Machines (robots) do not fall out of the sky. It starts with someone thinking of a solution e.g. replacing people with a machine because the working conditions are not ideal for humans, like working underground, heat, dust, high noise levels or simply increasing turnover. Then someone has to design the machine. Someone has to build the machine or create machines that build the machine. Someone has to maintain and update the software that runs the machine. Someone has to maintain the machine. Someone has to think of a marketing strategy to get the machine to prospective buyers. Someone has to create the software that implements the marketing strategy. Someone has to sell the machine as an employee or as a freelancer or as an affiliate. Someone has to create and maintain channels that support the selling process. Someone has to transport the machines to customers, possibly to different countries. Someone has to offer technical support to users. Someone has to decide on the machine graveyard - how to dispose of the machine when it becomes obsolete like recycling and reusing of parts etc. All these are jobs and business opportunities that did not exists when the machine did not exist - when humans did the job. So manual jobs disappear but new ones appear.

I deliberately used ‘someone’ repeatedly because this is what it’s about. These are human functions and will remain human functions. These functions that will not disappear when repetitive functions based on predictable outcomes are taken over by the machine disappear.

What I have just described and more is happening right now and many people have plugged in. The main difference between those who plug in and those who keep looking for jobs that no longer exist is mind-set. We should thus stop inculcating the job-seeking mind-set in learners. No learner is born with this mentality, they learn it from parents, educators and the media. We should stop talking climbing the corporate ladder because the ladder is disappearing very fast. We should stop talking about promotions because in the spectrum of opportunities I have just described there is no room for such thinking.

What then should we teach in schools? What no software can do. We should teach the following (not in order of importance):

1. Thinking skills

2. Being solution oriented

3. The life-long learning mindset

4. Not inculcating the job-seeker mentality

5. Cognitive diversity (for job or business suitability)

6. Individual and social behavioural competencies

7. Transformation competency

8. Entrepreneurship

9. Being values driven

10. Being self-reliant

I cannot do justice to thinking skills, cognitive diversity and the other competencies listed above in a blog. Since you have subscribed to this service, you will receive notification when I offer webinars.

Lastly, Linda, because you are in SA, I would like to add this. As a country we need to address what really holds our economy back – not only learners and students but the whole country. It is partly the quality of internet connection. Before I lived in a country with high speed internet I did not know what a difference that makes. I was one of the ‘happy few’ who had ADSL and I thought that that was high speed internet. Most South Africans can only dream of ADSL. That is why they depend on Blackberry. The government has installed the weakest form of internet connection in public places like libraries and businesses like banks are trying to help by supplying free wifi in their branches. When I am back in SA I use the bottomless wifi at Mugg and Bean and wonder how many South Africans can pay for a cup or tea there. Why is internet access the privilege of the happy few and not a right?

The quality of internet has a huge impact on how you do business – how you buy - how you learn – how you teach and how you generally do life. If a country like Kenya can get their act together and have high speed internet so can SA.

Not only does internet connection hold us back but our thinking also holds us back. For the past quarter of a century we have made the same noises about ‘economic transformation’. I have to explain this to those outside SA. Economic transformation, known as Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) refers to the fact that dinosaur white companies should give black people senior positions. The same dinosaurs that will definitely disappear when high speed internet puts the power in the people’s hands. Many of them have the government to thank for their existence because lack of high speed internet access disempowers the masses and guarantees their ongoing monopoly. It’s about time we woke up to the fact that the world changed since Mandela became president and economic transformation became a buzzword. Instead of talking about BEE we should be demanding high speed internet that makes Self Economic Empowerment (SEE) possible for ALL South Africans irrespective of who they are.

Linda, I hope by now your head is spinning. That was the intention. We grow when we get stretched beyond our current level of thinking.

What next?

1. In the next week please go through all the four blogs and decide what you are going to do differently as a result of all this input.

2. Please read Mr. Richard Maponya's biography - the living legend behind Maponya Mall. I do not admire him because of his net worth but because of his humble beginnings without BEE, with great values like integrity, determination, diligence and self-reliance. If I ruled the world, his book would be prescribed to all irrespective of age. I wish parents could buy their children such books.

The next instalment, the last one is on selling your skills to non-employers.

Till next week

Makheni your Future Readiness Coach

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Makheni Zonneveld has extensive experience in helping organisations, teams, individuals and entrepreneurs with real transformation. She employs these communications tools: Online and face2face coaching, speaking, training, storytelling and writing.

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