Ensuring that young people, their parents and employers are correctly informed about the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its impact on the future workforce was one of the main drivers behind The British School of Brussels’ Expert Panel discussion held on 12 February 2019. The event was organised within the framework of BSB’s Employer Engagement programme that provides opportunities for young people to engage with professionals from all backgrounds and sectors. Targetted at the future workforce, business community and parents, the discussion enabled the audience to discover how these changes will affect them.
Run in partnership with The British and American Chambers of Commerce, the panel reminded us that although we often read scary headlines asking ‘Will robots steal our jobs?’ the outlook is generally positive. As we heard, AI is already being used every day. For instance, our searches on Google or receiving recommendations from Netflix or Spotify are good examples of this.
Overall, the discussion made it clear that as automation advances, it will be the most human-centric skills that become the most valuable.
Chief Executive of the British Chamber, Glenn Vaughan, chaired the Expert Panel. Discussing the ‘Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained: workforce transitions in an age of automation’ a McKinsey Global Institute report from 2017, the panel provided invaluable insight for the future workforce – students from BSB were joined by young people from other local schools, parents and corporate representatives from across Brussels.
Key note speaker Jacques Bughin, Director of MGI and co-author of the report, delivered a clear message: instead of fearing this new technology and worrying about what jobs may disappear, it is better to view these new advancements as opportunities and to seize each one. Jacques was confident that today’s jobs will transition and evolve, as has happened in the past, and that it is up to us to drive how these transitions unfold.
Catherine Stewart, Senior Advisor at Interel Group was clear that there are still ways to stay ahead of the automation trend. Machines and AI are advancing in cognitive tasks related to memory and learning new information, but they lack our people skills and emotional intelligence. Catherine’s advice to the future workforce, and to the current one, is “learn to be clear, constructive, creative and adaptable, learn to listen and to challenge in a positive way” in order to thrive.
Angela Dong, Senior Vice President Human Resources, Research & Innovation, Solvay, is witnessing the AI transition first hand, and advised the audience that in fact, not everyone needs to master the potentials from AI and new technology; to stand out you will need to understand what it is that it can help you achieve.
Melanie Warnes, Principal and CEO of The British School of Brussels, concluded the panel discussion in agreement with the other panellists that the way the future workforce interact with each other, human to human, will be crucial. Melanie also pointed out that skills and emotional intelligence are a key focus of BSB’s education and that enabling students to acquire the aptitudes they will need to be successful in the future is a vital role for schools to play.
Though automation may be on the rise, the take home message of the night was to have a positive outlook – the robots won’t beat us yet!
‘The future is not predictable, it is to be shaped’