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Preparing for the Future

It does not take a genius to know that our world is changing rapidly. I lived through the tumultuous changes that happened in the 60s and 70s but nothing compares to the speed at which our life has been transformed today. I thought about this because last week I was introduced to an app-controlled mug that allowed me to set the temperature of my coffee drink! It may not catch on right this very moment but it does illustrate the point—the advances we are seeing are simply incredible.


Technology—especially communications technology—has allowed us to be more interconnected than ever. It has allowed us to create better ways of doing things. These changes have also impacted the workplace. Today, expert are talking about how automation or even artificial intelligence can replace people in the workforce.


Now, there is one lesson that I have learned in my lifelong experience as an entrepreneur: you have to understand how the future will impact your life and make adjustments early on. Hindi ka pwedeng matulog sa pancitan, as the old saying goes. It is important to be aware of and understand the changes going on in the world and adapt to them. That is true whether you are a small or large business. Adapt or perish.


So, with technology changing rapidly and traditional human jobs being threatened to extinction, how should our young students prepare? By developing skills and aptitudes that would be very useful in the future. But what skills should you develop if the future is not yet here? You need to develop skills that are universally applicable. Those that have been tested by time.


A study by the Society of Human Resource Management in 2019 revealed that companies demanded these six skills which they found missing from potential employees:


  1. Problem-solving, critical thinking, innovation, and creativity
  2. Ability to deal with complexity and ambiguity
  3. Trade skills (carpentry, plumbing, welding, machining, etc.)
  4. Data analysis/data science
  5. Science / engineering / medical


Right off the bat, you see the trend in the responses. The top three items are non-technical. They refer more to the character, social skills, and emotional intelligence of a person rather than one’s technical know-how.


Expertise can be developed through training but personality, problem-solving abilities, people skills are more difficult to master. Even in my case, while I look at the educational background and training of applicants, I believe it is more important to look at soft skills.


And in a future defined by automation, our ability to be human becomes more valuable. Sure an app can control the temperature in my coffee mug or a robot might make my coffee someday but there is no substitute for the ability of a master coffee roaster who can experiment and create art out of coffee beans. Or a wine sommelier who can tame the complexities of the many varieties of wine.


It is our humanity that will ensure our viability in the age of technology. Our ability to connect to people, understand their needs and wants, respond with empathy, and are indispensable in the future we are creating.


I came across several articles that talked about the smart home. Technology now exists that will allow you to control your TV, lights, alarms, doors from your smartphones. Nowadays all home products from fridges, washing machine, cooking devices come with integrated WiFi modules allowing them to interconnect and communicate with each other. These are all good and fascinating. But a home is the idea of humans living together, connecting with each other. I built my first house because I want families of all income levels to have a place to build their own future. Maybe smart homes are the future. But homes are for people, not just appliances.



Manila Bulletin/Views/MannyVillar