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

Yes, workflows and companies such as Google, Apple, Netflix & Facebook want people with 21st century skills, to milk more ‘juice’ out of technology.

Updated Mar 25, 2023
21st century skills

The complex nature of life today, coupled with advances in technology, can only serve as reminders why we should equip our children with 21st-century skills, necessary for school, work and life.

They must prepare for a mashup of global cultures, just as they must embrace computer automation in its entirety. Evidently, technology has become the new partner at home and in the workplace!

Automated machinery and bots are reshaping how we live and work. They help us with domestic chores and are poised to take over many jobs we do today!

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

Computers are also better than ‘us’ at math skills. They can process huge amounts of data in record time.

So, what next for us humans?

The dash for robotics in the 21st century

The 21st century is evolving pretty fast, as big tech companies rethink how they hire their workforce.

Google, Netflix, Apple, Facebook, etc. are not actually thinking about hiring humans. They prefer instead to use machines and bots to run their businesses. They want to reduce costs and deploy computers that work 24/7 without whining and tiring. Besides, machines will not demand pay raises.

Yes, money matters!

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 computer automation got a much-needed boost because of the coronavirus pandemic, starting in 2019. It accelerated the rate at which machines and bots filled the gaps that humans vacated in the workplace.

For example, they took people’s temperatures, cleaned hospital and airport floors, served food in hospitals, 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.


Safe and unsafe jobs!

Yes, the dawn of computer automation means that many jobs will be up for grabs between man and machine. These job titles and tasks are easy for computers to do, and therefore unsafe for humans.

On the other hand, many other job titles and tasks will remain safe for humans to pursue.

Unsafe jobs?

The following workflows 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 job titles will be available for real people, for years to come:

  • 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
  • Core scientists
  • Psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists
  • Surgeons
  • Teachers
  • Sports men and women
  • Quality content writers
  • Digital content creators
  • Religious preachers
  • Musical artists
  • Lawyers
  • Pilots

So what next for learners in the 21st Century?

Besides mastering the core of Bloom’s taxonomy and thinking skills, future adults must possess appropriate skills to match existing realities of life. They must learn to live and work alongside bots and robots.

Thankfully, there are many skills up for grabs!

Whereas computerized machines and bots can do a lot of day to day tasks, they unfortunately lack the intrinsic ability to understand subtle humane skills depended on emotions and cognition.

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

Interpersonal skills allow us to read into each other’s minds and base on that 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 life and work problems.

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

Only then will they stay on top of their game, and work better with variations of computer automation.

Here are the 21st century skills that learners need urgently!

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 children need 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 analysis of information. These are necessary for resolving old and emerging problems and tasks.

Critical thinking involves collecting and processing information – just like computers, then evaluating the different ideas and what they mean in resolving 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 for life and work. These can be used to create new opportunities and enhance productivity in the workplace. Your child can begin with simple tasks, such as designing logos, computer games, and architectural assignments using basic applications on the computer.

– Collaboration and teamwork

With collaboration, your child works with peers for the greater good of the team in the workplace and the community. Working as a team creates room for critical thinking, brainstorming, creative thinking, and an opportunity for everyone in the team to learn new and working ideas. 

– Communication

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

  • listening
  • speaking
  • reading
  • writing

These skills complement digital tools on the internet and the workplace.

2. Literacy skills

Only a few decades ago the word literacy was used to describe proficiency in reading and writing, in addition to counting sills. A lot has changed since then and today, we have multiple other literacy skills to talk about.

Literacy today describes a collection of skills learners need to stay informed, skillful and productive.

According to UNESCO,

Beyond its conventional concept as a set of reading, writing and counting skills, literacy is now understood as a means of identification, understanding, interpretation, creation, and communication in an increasingly digital, text-mediated, information-rich and fast-changing world.


– 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, bias and hate.

– Media literacy

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

– 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.

– Code literacy

Coding is an essential digital skill for young learners in the 21st century. With coding, they elevate themselves from being only users of computer hardware and applications. They learn to become content developers and creators for vast digital devices.

– Civic literacy and citizenship

Civic literacy describes your child’s skill-sets and knowledge 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 on finances pertaining to investment and expenditure.

Environmental literacy

Environmental literacy encompasses your child’s advocacy and readiness to take action, to ensure the environment 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 development.

– 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 embrace new ideas and accept unfamiliar/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 with less 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 make your child live and work effectively, while competing favorably with computer automation.

Yes, companies and workflows still need real people with life skills to milk even more juice out of technology!

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