21st Century Skills Your Child Needs to Coexist with Computer Automation

Yes, companies and workflows still need real people with 21st century skills to milk even more ‘juice’ from technology.

Updated Jul 23, 2022
21st century skills

The proliferation of digital devices today is only a reminder we should equip our children with 21st-century skills, necessary for school, work and life.

They must prepare for a world where computer automation is fast becoming the norm, and a new partner at work. Robotics are reshaping how we work and do business, and poised to take over many jobs we do today!

They are good at structured tasks in factories and warehouses, and can accomplish monotonous and dangerous jobs without getting tired. They also offer precision at packaging, assembly, loading, and welding jobs.

Equally true, computers are better than ‘us’ at math skills. They can collect and process huge amounts of data in record time.

So what next for learners today?

Question is, besides mastering the core of Bloom’s taxonomy and thinking skills, are there additional skills children must possess in order to work and survive alongside computer automation?

Yes, of course.

Whereas computerized machines and bots can do a lot, they lack the intrinsic ability to understand subtle emotions and cognitive tasks.

This privilege is still reserved for humans. We are good at tasks that need intellectualism, creativity, innovation, compassion, and multiple other soft skills.

Interpersonal skills allow us to read into each other’s minds and base on what we see to make informed choices and decisions. We can work within complex scenarios and interpret data from varying angles of ambiguity. This makes us capable of imagining, deviating, and trying out different ideas to solve dynamic problems in life.

To perfect these skills, we must teach our children to continue learning and adapting. They must read wide (the old way), and invest more in cognitive science and soft skills. In addition to mastering foundational literacy and numeracy skills, they must invest in deeper learning and higher-order thinking skills.

Only then can will they stay on the same footing, and work better with variations of computer automation.

Robotics in the workplace in the 21st century

The 21st century is evolving pretty fast, as big tech companies such as Google, Netflix, Apple, Facebook, etc. are rethinking how they hire their workforce.

They are not actually thinking about hiring humans that much, and prefer using machines and bots to run their businesses.

They are driven by the thought of reducing costs and utilizing computers that work 24/7 without whining and tiring. Besides, machines don’t lose concentration and will not demand pay raises.

In the US alone, a business that pays 100 dollars to a human also pays 30 dollars in taxes, and yet a business that spends 100 dollars on tech equipment pays only 3 dollars in taxes. This is based on the 2017 Tax Cuts & Jobs Act.

The bid to embrace robotics got a much-needed boost thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, which accelerated the rate at which machines filled the gaps vacated by humans.

For example, they took people’s temperatures, cleaned hospital and airport floors, served food in hospitals and universities, and worked as security guards!

The U.S. shed around 40 million jobs at the peak of the pandemic, and while some have come back, some will never return. One group of economists estimates that 42% of the jobs lost are gone forever.

TIMES

Unsafe jobs?

The following workers and job titles are predictable, and therefore being taken over by computer automation:

  • Assembly and factory workers: being replaced by robotic automation
  • Cashiers and tellers replaced by automated teller machines
  • Book keepers to be replaced by bots from Intuit, Sage and Xero
  • Proof readers replaced by bots such as OutWrite, Grammarly, and Ginger
  • Drivers: think of Tesla, Cat, and Uber test cars
  • Packing, delivery and warehouse moving jobs i.e. drones
  • Telemarketers i.e. IBM Watson Assistant
  • Flight engineers
  • Journalists i.e. MSN replaced a dozen journalists with AI bots to collect and process news during COVID-19, citing a drop in revenue
  • Information analysts and researchers
  • Paralegals
  • Credit analysts
  • Receptionists, clerks, bartenders, cooks, replaced by butler robots made by Savioke and Chowbotics
  • Customer service agents: replaced by chat-bots, i.e. Watson assistant and others from Liveperson.
  • Pharmacy technicians
  • Stock traders
  • Soccer referees
  • Street vendors
  • Soldiers
  • Security guards, i.e., Knigtscope robots are now used as security guards at malls, stadiums, etc

Safe jobs?

On the other hand, the following workers and job titles will be available for real people:

  • Software developers
  • Big data specialists
  • Data security specialists
  • Ecommerce experts
  • Digital marketing experts
  • AI experts
  • Social network experts
  • People managers, public relations officers, planners
  • Creatives, graphic designers
  • Scientists
  • Psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists
  • Surgeons
  • Teachers
  • Sports men and women
  • Quality content writers
  • Digital content creators
  • Religious preachers
  • Musical artists
  • Lawyers
  • Pilots

The 21st century skills learners need

machine and jobs today
(Pixabay image by Colin Behrens)

With robotics grabbing what used to be mainstream jobs, there is every reason to re-evaluate 21st-century skills your child needs for college, work, and life.

The following pointers should be good starting points for all of us parents, teachers, and the community.

1. Learning and innovation skills

The following cognitive and core skills are critical in helping learners manage and adapt to the challenges of the 21st-century workplace.

– Critical thinking and problem solving skills

Your child’s ability to think critically creates room for deeper learning and advanced analysis of information necessary for solving problems and tasks. This may involve collecting and processing information – just like computers, then evaluating the different ideas and what they mean in solving problems – computers don’t do this!

Critical thinking can be defined as

… the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.

University of Lousville

Creativity and imagination

Creativity describes your child’s ability to come up with innovative and unique ideas. These can be used in the workplace to create new opportunities and enhance productivity. Your child can begin with tasks, such as designing logos, computer games, and architectural assignments using applications on the computer.

– Collaboration and teamwork

Collaboration is a skill where your child works with peers for the greater good of a team or course. Working as a team creates room for brainstorming, creative thinking, and an opportunity for everyone in the team to develop new and working ideas. 

– Communication

Communication is a soft skill that facilitates an effective line of conversation between your child and her peers, to enable meaningful discussions and decision-making. It involves learning and efficient use of 4 language skills,

  • listening
  • speaking
  • reading
  • writing

These skills are usable with digital tools on the internet and even offline.

2. Literacy skills

A long time ago, the word literacy was used to describe one’s ability to read and write. A lot has changed since then, and today, we have quite a number of literacy skills to talk about.

Literacy today describes a collection of skills that can help learners stay informed, to facilitate responsible workmanship and citizenship.

– Information literacy

This encompasses your child’s ability to know and comprehend information, news, and other data, and know when they are needed. With developed information literacy, she can discern data objectively, amidst information overload and bias.

– Media literacy

Media literacy describes your child’s skills to create, evaluate, and correctly use the vast mediums of information. These may include TV, computers, games, blogging forums, and other digital tools. It is important for your child to balance media consumption and avoid abusing them.

– ICT literacy

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) literacy describes your child’s ability to use digital and communication tools to read, create, evaluate, and use information ethically and responsibly.

– Civic literacy and citizenship

Civic literacy describes your child’s knowledge and skill necessary for positive contributions and changes in her community, country, and world.

– Health literacy

Health literacy describes your child’s ability to understand general health and health care information to make informed decisions on matters of nutrition, general wellbeing, and medication.

– Financial literacy

Financial literacy describes your child’s knowledge and ability to make informed choices, and financial decisions pertaining to investment and expenditure.

Environmental literacy

Environmental literacy encompasses your child’s advocacy for the environment and readiness to take action to ensure it is healthy and safe for everyone.

3. Life and career skills

Life and career skills include the basics of survival skills necessary for personal and professional life.

– Flexibility and adaptability

Flexibility and adaptability describe your child’s mental readiness to operate/switch environments and life circumstances without whining and procrastinating. It basically defines how ready she is to take on new ideas and accept unfamiliar and unexpected life challenges.

– Initiative and self-motivation skills

Initiative describes your child’s resourcefulness and readiness to start and accomplish tasks without being pushed. Generally, she has the belief, self-esteem, and confidence to try out new ideas and tasks and complete them.

– Productivity and accountability skills

Your child’s productivity skills are good enough if she has the drive and desire to achieve goals by planning, managing time, and setting up teams with peers.

– Social skills/emotional intelligence

Social skills describe your child’s emotional ability to harness interpersonal skills, through verbal and nonverbal interactions. The ability also means your child learns to regard others with empathy and compassion, and can communicate without awkwardness.

– Leadership and responsibility skills

The leadership skills describe the ability to take charge of situations or people and organize them with respect to societal values and ethics. These abilities involve managing people, public speaking, and doing these with marked responsibility and compassion.

In conclusion

All the above points describe 21st century skills that will allow our children today and tomorrow, to live and work efficiently while competing favorably with computer automation.

Yes, companies and workflows still need real people with life skills to milk even more ‘juice‘ from technology.

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