Four ways we can rethink youth employment journeys with data and technology

By Hamoon Ekhtiari

CEO of FutureFit AI

I immigrated to Canada as a child and remember vividly the struggles of simply finding our way as a family in this new place and physical maps always seemed somehow outdated. In the new world of work, we are all ‘immigrants’ in some way needing to hustle, be resourceful, deal with unpredictable changes, and constantly learn a new skill language.

This week has seen the publication of a timely new report about what young people think about their futures and how they might get there. As Dream Jobs?  Teenagers’ Career Aspirations and the Future of Work points out, it is becoming clear that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation are transforming work as we once knew it. Regardless of which predictions you believe regarding AI destroying or creating jobs, one thing is for certain: the number, frequency, and intensity of job transitions is only going to increase – especially for young people with little or no work experience. In ten years’ time, as many as 30% of work tasks may be automated across industries and borders – no occupation or profession is entirely safe. The path of continuous layoffs, returning to school, unremitting up / reskilling could be an exhausting one without the right support. Youth already disconnected from or misinformed about the labour market will likely face an even more difficult time.

While it has been featured here as a question in a PISA assessment, “What kind of job do I expect to have what I grow up?” is a difficult and confusing question for many youth – and adults – around the world. While the opportunities could be endless, often it is only difficulties and obstacles youth see in front of them.

Might we be able to build technology systems to help us anticipate these transitions beforehand? Might it be possible to navigate the change instead of passively react?

We believe we can. Just like the building of Google Maps, Waze, and other digital GPS applications have revolutionised the physical world of navigation, we believe the same can be done with the invisible world of careers and learning.

For those youth wondering what they might be at age 30, we think there are a few ways data and technology could be instrumental in answering that question.

Firstly, we live in a world now abundant with information, tools, and platforms that help us get to know ourselves. Digital tools and assessments can be used to “locate” any young person in terms of their work / volunteer experience, their skills, knowledge, and abilities, their interests, and so on. Delivered alongside career guidance counsellors and mentors, these tools can enhance a youth’s understanding of themselves and prompt them to keep asking and answering important questions throughout their journey. Second, information about work and learning opportunities could be brought into a one-stop shop used to better identify a “destination” of where youth may be interested in exploring. By having easy access to career, employer, skills, and learning profiles customised to personal interests, youth are better positioned to make more realistic, data-driven career decisions aligned with employers and the labour market. Thirdly, by having a granular view of one’s “location” and set of “destinations”, youth can easily map out “pathways” between any set of points they’re interested in exploring. Having these data points easily accessible in mobile and digital form allows them to compare, contrast, update, and refine as they learn more about themselves and the different opportunities available. In a digital platform environment, employers are able to more easily access youth, extend opportunities that match their profile, and view information about what kinds of pathways youth are more interested in. Finally, over time alongside the right human supports and guidance, youth might have access to additional information and resources through their very own career GPS for just-in-time career tips and guidance along their learning pathway.

In effect, networks of organisations and employers can more effectively, efficiently, and equitably engage with youth, enabling them to step into their career journey fit for the future.

Talent is equally distributed but opportunity is not – it is our responsibility and an urgent challenge of this century to make sure we upend that unfair reality so that everyone can discover, pursue, and secure their path to opportunity and success in the future of work.

Hamoon Ekhtiari is CEO of FutureFit AI and a contributor to the OECD report Dream Jobs?  Teenagers’ Career Aspirations and the Future of Work.