Prepare Workforce for Technologically Driven Future – Turner-Jones

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Caribbean Country Department General Manager, Therese Turner-Jones, says the Jamaican labour force must be equipped to operate in a world characterised by rapidly evolving technology.

“It is imperative to empower Jamaicans to embrace technology by enabling them to thrive in an environment that is constantly changing (thus) preparing them for a career that entails lifelong learning,” she said while addressing a recent Labour Market Forum at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St. Andrew.

Mrs. Turner-Jones noted that the President of Northeastern University in the United States, Dr. Joseph Aoun, in his book, ‘Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence’, lays the framework for a new discipline called “humanics”, which aims to provide the tools for persons to compete in a technologically driven world.

Humanics builds on the innate strengths and prepares students to compete in a labour market in which smart machines work alongside human professionals.

The new literacies of Dr. Aoun’s humanics are data literacy (being able to manage and analyse big data); technological literacy (being able to understand exponential technologies and conduct computational thinking); and human literacy (being able to communicate and evaluate social, ethical, and existential impact).

“But at the heart of Dr. Aoun’s framework are four cognitive capacities that I believe are important to develop if the workforce is to… stay relevant – critical thinking, systems thinking, entrepreneurship and cultural agility. Dr. Aoun emphasises that ‘these capacities are mindsets rather than bodies of knowledge – mental architecture rather than mental furniture,’” Mrs. Turner-Jones said.

She said Dr. Aoun contends that while individuals need to know specific bodies of knowledge to be effective in the workplace, this alone will not be enough when intelligent machines are doing much of the “heavy lifting” of information.

In order to succeed, she argued, “tomorrow’s employees will have to demonstrate a higher order of thought”.

Higher education, based on the new literacies of humanics can equip students for living and working through change.

The Labour Market Forum, under the theme ‘Enabling Growth and Development: Unlocking the Potential of the Global Shared Services Sector’, was jointly organised by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) and the Labour Market Information Technical Advisory Committee, with support from the IDB.

Mrs. Turner-Jones said the IDB was pleased to participate in the event, which explored how the BPO sector can prepare and make itself ready for the future.

She is urging stakeholders in the industry to innovate in order to ensure that as business booms, the labour market remains relevant, is optimised, and that people’s lives are improved.

“I am sure we are all aiming for the same vision – a better life for the people of Jamaica. The IDB’s vision is, in fact, to improve lives by creating vibrant sustainable economies where people are safe, productive and happy. For us to do that, we must know and understand global trends and empower the labour market, thereby unlocking opportunities for economic growth,” she added.

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