Tech and business changes could keep kids born today working until they're 100 years old
'Kid carpenter' [Shutterstock]

Expert tells headteachers that pupils could go on to have 40 jobs and the education system must adapt to the changing world

By Nicola Slawson, The Guardian

Children today could end up working to the age of 100 in as many as 40 different jobs, a futurologist has predicted.

Rohit Talwar, who helps businesses look at what the world might look like in five to 50 years, told headteachers yesterday that the education system is behind with how fast the world is changing and that they must prepare students now for the world of the future.

Rising life expectancy because of medical advances, combined with the trend for goods and services to be increasingly produced by smart software and robots, mean when today’s children are adults their working lives will likely differ vastly from that of their parents.

Research suggests that between 30 percent and 80 percent of all the jobs that exist today will disappear in the next 10 to 20 years as companies increasingly invest in automation, warning of an impending “huge disconnect”.

Pupils could go on to have a “portfolio career”, Talwar told delegates at the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC).

“You might be driving Uber part of the day, renting out your spare bedroom on Airbnb a little bit, renting out space in your closet as storage for Amazon, doing delivery for Amazon or housing the drone that does delivery for Amazon.

“There are all these sort of new sharing economy models coming through,” he said. “We need to start thinking about these things, we need to start thinking about the kinds of skills we’ll need to help people stay employable.

“If they do have a job all the way through their career, that means they’ll be working potentially up to the age of 100.”

And they “might well have 40 jobs in that period in 10 different careers”, he added.

Talwar, who is chief executive of Fast Future Research, challenged school leaders to think about how they can change their teaching styles.

He said: “Everywhere around the world policy makers are behind the game in understanding how fast the world is changing, and they’re not changing the education or social system anywhere near as quickly.

“The challenge we have is that nowhere around the world is anyone really trying to do some joined-up thinking about what would that look like in the future,” Talwar told reporters.

William Richardson, general secretary of HMC, said: “[Our] schools welcome the challenge laid down by Talwar and stand ready and are willing to contribute to a debate about the fundamental nature of the education our pupils receive in the future.

“Innovation and independence is in our blood and this, combined with harnessing the power of young people to conceive new ideas, will help us find exciting new ways of teaching and learning.”