If robotics replaces many of the functions traditionally carried out by humans, there is an urgent need to rethink the design of our universities .
Human hands are no longer required to wash and prepare vegetables for mass packaging; or count out how many paperclips are dropped into a box. Robotics is starting to displace many manual labor functions, particularly those of factory workers. But with robotics advancing exponentially, are we fast reaching a place where they will soon have the potential to substitute not only human hands, but brains as well?
Amy Webb, a digital media futurist, predicts that at least eight career fields are “ripe for disruption” – and they include lawyers, cashiers and journalists. In the same way that robotics disrupted the blue collar worker, the disruption of the ‘white collar worker’ is now on the cards. Already, we’re seeing the commoditisation of doctors, engineers and accountants.
Mayo Clinic has deployed IBM’s Watson to assist in diagnostics, and this tool is ‘beating’ the speed and accuracy of diagnoses by clinicians. Modelling tools are replacing more traditional drafting functions in engineering and architectural companies, as well as quantity surveying functions. Flux has the potential to displace many aspects of ‘design’ activities by engineers and architects. Self-taxation aids are challenging what accountants do.
As a result, it’s highly likely that careers will no longer have the ability to last a lifetime and a large portion of the workforce may be forced to retrain multiple times during their careers.
Tomorrow’s employers will value different skill sets than today’s – and this will fuel the need for upskilling, reskilling and different skills, in order to keep pace with the changing face of the work environment as we know it.
Our universities of the future will be frequented by first-time attendees, but also by second-time attendees, and if longevity increases, perhaps even third-timers…and this will govern how we design education facilities in future.
What needs will an older set of learners have? They won’t want to sit through another four-year degree course. Their intimacy with the latest tech trends won’t be the same as that of school leavers. The way that they learn is and will be different from the so-called ’youngsters’. With families and existing financial commitments, will facilities have to be designed to accommodate more intensive, fast-tracked courses for larger groups? Will they need to pay closer attention to mobility to allow people to get in and out of campuses quickly and back to work? Will companies collocate onto campuses? Will they need to be more digitally savvy as larger audiences sign up for courses more relevant for the future, requiring overflow halls that broadcast lectures live?
If educational facilities want to thrive in future they need to understand how industry will change in a disrupted world and the demands that industry will place on their workforce. They need to be anticipating these changes and having the debate now about the campus design, the course offerings and teaching methods that will meet the needs of the future learners (of all ages) and respond in ways that will be considered indispensable in a changing future.