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From ‘White-Collar’ Jobs To ‘New-Collar’ Jobs:

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Getting Nigeria’s Youth Prepared for the 4th Industrial Revolution
Excerpts from Address to Matriculating Students of Mcpherson University, Ogun State by: Bolaji Ogunseye

Background and Introduction
It is my great pleasure and honour to be invited as guest lecturer on the occasion of an important milestone in the lives and dreams of these youth of Nigeria, who are today being matriculated into this unique place of tertiary learning – a citadel whose social-reproduction and human-asset-development mission is deeply rooted in the substance, ethics and sociology of faith. I must commend the Foursquare Christian family for accepting the challenge that institutions or gatherings of faith, perhaps more than others, do have a compelling duty to contribute intellectually to the quantum of efforts aimed at strengthening the foundations of Group Morality alongside society’s Collective Socio-Economic Well-being. Needless to repeat, today, we all live in a Nigeria which gets increasingly and disturbingly value-degraded in so many aspects of daily existence.
I have accepted this assignment because I consider myself in many ways, but most especially through my professional life, to be a friend of our youth across the nation and perhaps everywhere. I have always been concerned that every generation should give its youth more that it got in its own formative years and decades. Alas, what seems to be (I dare say what Really is) happening in our country today is that our generation, in many respects, is giving less, rather than more, to today’s youth, than we got during our own formative decades. That worries me, as it should all the people of my generation, whatever their professional calling or role in society. Hence, I give you, today’s matriculating students, this address as a friend in the essential life-task of facilitating your self-building into valuable human-assets individually, nationally and globally, in a way that is fit-for-purpose vis-à-vis the inescapable dawn of the ‘Knowledge Society’. The features of that society, I must warn you, will radically disrupt most of the certainties with which you have grown up and familiarized over the last two decades or less. I therefore address you as a helpful friend, albeit an honest and frank one. I want to advise and warn you about the capacity and capability requirements for the world and society into which you will graduate a few years after your Matriculation today.
The title of my address or lecture today is ‘From White-Collar Jobs to New-Collar Jobs: Getting Nigeria’s Youth Prepared for the 4th Industrial Revolution. First, I want us to look at a few terminologies or phrases that will and should increasingly feature in your studies as you journey through your university education. You are already probably familiar with many of them. I shall not attempt a detailed definition of every item. But A.I means Artificial Intelligence, for instance; Digital Revolution, as another example, means the technological and engineering fusion of two sciences – the science of Quantum Computing and that of Artificial Intelligence or Robotics; IoTs; Machine Learning; Digital Algorithms; Disruptive Technology; Disruptive Economy; Incumbents; Disruptors; 4th Industrial Revolution. There are many more in the new lexicon of the 4th Industrial Revolution, all of which can be looked up on the internet and relevant journals.
My dear matriculating friends, I advise that the internet and social media have aspects that can help you make your education to be more fit-for-purpose in preparing yourselves as active stakeholders of the new knowledge society and ‘New-Collar’ jobs, which are literally just around the corner of the global village. There are far more valuable and life-improving items and apps on your hand-held computer or ‘smart phone, than just selfies, gossip chats; music, films, modelling and fashion sites, computer games – like Thrones, The Candy Crush, etc.
What then are the Implications of the dizzying and accelerating fusion of digital tech with artificial-intel science, the rise of ‘Tech Start-ups’ and their product-market challenge to the established industrial ‘incumbents’? And how is this revolution currently modifying, altering and disrupting (will even soon radically change) how we produce, the machines and tools we use to produce, what we produce, the speed of producing, the cost of producing, what we consume, how we consume, the skills needed for producing, how we exercise our brain and cognitive power, how we acquire, register and apply knowledge in the conduct of our daily lives, and how we conduct and manage inter-personal relationships and a host of more subtle but crucial elements of the human existential experience? The world is going to change; so, my young friends – your own ideas of what type of education you need should also change, including how you acquire, constantly improve and adapt that life-long education; in type, in quality, in specific skills and learning content. That’s the opportunity of being here in a University offers you. You are not just here to collect, cram and off-load content from your lecturer’s classes and handouts!! You have come here to learn to change your own world of thinking, along with the world around you, while also adapting to the changes being generated by others who share that world with you.
Part Two: Why Does it (the 4th Ind. Rev) Matter?
The supply of those who can use or apply great skills to get machines working or solve operational, process, design or other functional problems – digitally – will be relatively limited in the employment market, and, therefore, will be in very hot demand in the next few years. Accordingly, they will receive the most salaries, or have the best careers, while millions are finding out, painfully, that their skills are no longer needed. Tomorrow’s super employees will be the robotics technicians; engineers, repairers; machine-learning engineers and scientists – also called ‘data scientists’, quantum algorithm programmers, etc. My friends, please aim to use your education to get into that top-quartile of skills and competencies needed by the employers of the digital and robotics age.
Like many of your lecturers and senior academics, I grew up in a world in which skills have been broadly categorized into either ‘white-collar’ jobs (those with tertiary education, who do relatively more intellectual or ‘brain’ work in the offices – banks, schools, hospitals, law chamber and courts, business companies, research institutes, etc; or ‘blue-collar’ jobs – largely the non-tertiary-trained, technical, artisanal or vocational jobs – on factory floors, in shops, in mechanic workshops, in warehouses and similar types of work. Then of course, there is the category of work that is (sometimes wrongly, in my view) referred to as ‘unskilled labour’. But the 4th industrial revolution is taking you, today’s matriculants, beyond the distinction of blue or white-collar jobs. It is taking you into a world in which not whether you have a university education or not will be the deciding factor for professional success (although university degrees will continue to be very relevant), but rather, how digitalized is the skill you bring to the employment market? And whether that skill is among the ‘dying’, or, nascent ‘new-collar’ skills. My friendly advice and, yes, my warning, to you, also, dear matriculants and leaders of tomorrow – is to constantly scan the world of the 4th Industrial Revolution into which you will graduate in the next 4-5 years, and to always seek where its greenest and always-evolving pastures may be, over every five-year period. Otherwise, you may become de-skilled without even realizing it, only to find out in the harshest and rudest possible way. So, my friends, you are facing a challenge of life-long learning in the fullest sense of the phrase. Today, I am advising you to prepare yourselves to fully and effectively embrace that brave new world of the disruptive technology and economy.
For those of you who are studying the ‘soft sciences’ or humanities (as I did), you must graduate into skilled professionals who can capture or imagine, or innovate ideas, concepts, perceptions and existential contexts in the humanities and preserve them in safe, digital forms; or be able to have them ‘robotized’ for eternal storage; for instance, you must aim to become rare specialists, digital-restoration experts for great ancient artworks and paintings, to be backstage scientists and technologists in film making and production, etc.
I provide below, a table titled: Brand New Car: From Concept to Show room: What levels and type of Human Assets or Skills-Sets are needed? The sample Table shows how the ‘Skills Cake’ is shared among the various skills or roles contributed in the manufacture of key products across the manufacturing industry, whether it is a car, an Ocean Liner, an Aircraft, a Petrochemical Plant, or even a computer. Who gets How Much depends on how the market rates and quantifies the importance and criticality of the skill you are contributing to the product being manufactured. That discriminating trend is only going to increase or intensify much further over the next decade and beyond.
The Table is for a typical modern car, and provides a broad indicator of how highly-digitalized skills and low-digitalized skills or contributions are differently valued, rewarded or priced, in the current manufacturing labour market. While this is not new, the lesson here is that the trend is about to become more intensely emphasized over the next 10 years, based on the degree and quality of digital and robotics science skills possessed and contributed to a task by the average ‘new-collar’ worker. Those with top-end ‘knowledge-society’ skills in the digital technology, data science, A-I, machine learning, quantum algorithm, technology, science and engineering innovation will earn about 90{ea8c11308c9c5919903708965b7b7a67d75ff567d88a1bebc318ff793fd0b309} of labour compensation for the work that goes into the manufacture or production of equipment, machines and contraptions like cars, aircrafts, ships, factory installation, etc. Dear matriculants, you need to prepare yourselves to be in that highly-paid top-quartile pool of new-collar skills.
(Table is taken out – inside power-point slides)
Part Three The ‘Disruptors’ Are Here; The Incumbents are in Trouble!
In the summary outlined below, of a recent public interview (with students and journalists as audience) the CEO of Daimler-Benz, Manufacturer of the Daimler and Mercedez Brands, Dr. Dieter Dezsche, presents a long list of new, dramatic software and AI products and services, including a series of jaw-dropping innovations and inventions, which are expected to enter the global market over the next 5 to 20 years. His list of wonders can and should only send two messages to the imaginative, future-oriented and curious student: a) this world is gone as we know it; and b) a new one is almost here. Therefore, the question for the ambitious student should be: how do I position myself to be a viable stakeholder in this new world?
Let’s now follow Dr. Dezsche as he shares the following words on the digital and robotic-technology wonders of tomorrow’s world (minimally edited for brevity, context clarity and to reduce use of confusing colloquial phrases):
· Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years.
· Uber is just a software tool, they don’t own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world.
· Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties.
Artificial Intelligence:
· Computers become exponentially better at understanding the world. This year (2017), a computer beat the best ‘Go’ player in the world, 10 years earlier than expected.
· In the US, young lawyers already don’t get jobs. Because of IBM Watson (app), you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic legal issues) within seconds, with 90{ea8c11308c9c5919903708965b7b7a67d75ff567d88a1bebc318ff793fd0b309} accuracy compared with 70{ea8c11308c9c5919903708965b7b7a67d75ff567d88a1bebc318ff793fd0b309} accuracy when done by human lawyers.
· So, if you’re studying law, have a re-think, or a fall back plan, even if you don’t stop your course immediately. There will be 90{ea8c11308c9c5919903708965b7b7a67d75ff567d88a1bebc318ff793fd0b309} less lawyers in the future; only very advanced specialists will remain in a few areas.
· Watson (app) already helps nurses in diagnosing cancer, 4 times more accurately than human nurses! Facebook now has a pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans in tasks that require full (algorithmic) precision
Autonomous (or self-driving) cars:
· In 2018 the first self-driving cars will appear for public use (in some advanced countries). Around 2020, the complete car manufacturing industry will start to be disrupted. For an increasing number of people, you don’t want to own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while ‘driving’. Most of our kids will not require or need to get a driver’s license and may never own a car. Just owning a car as a status symbol will become irrelevant (or even laughable), except in the most backward societies
· Autonomous cars will change the cities, because we will need 90-95{ea8c11308c9c5919903708965b7b7a67d75ff567d88a1bebc318ff793fd0b309} less cars for moving around. We can transform former parking spaces into parks.
· 1.2 million people currently die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now (by 2017 global total) have one accident every 60,000 miles (100,000 km); with autonomous driving that will drop to one accident in 6 million miles (10 million km). That will save a million lives each year.
· Most car companies will probably become bankrupt. (While) traditional car companies are following the evolutionary approach, and try to just build a better car, tech software companies (e.g. Tesla, Apple, Google) are trying to do the revolutionary and opposite approach: build a computer on wheels.
· (Today) many engineers from Volkswagen and Audi are completely terrified (afraid) of Tesla.
Bolaji Ogunseye, a Developmental Economist, is a member of Voice of Reason

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