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Digital skills will be critical in the future workplace

For a number of years now Ericsson has been supporting Universeum in Gothenburg, Sweden, with the Digital Lab program – a dedicated technology program for kids. A visit to Universeum is a wonderful experience for kids and adults alike. It’s Scandinavia’s largest science center, with 9,000 cubic meters of adventure spread over seven floors. Visitors can experience a tropical rainforest, huge aquariums, explore the Swedish wilderness, and take part in a variety of technology and science experiments.

Digital Lab program

The Digital Lab program is aimed at 11- to 14-year-olds who want to improve their general knowledge and understanding, as well as getting practical, hands-on experience of programming and digital technology. There are specific modules on robotics, game development and electronics. Experience of practical programming and having fun while learning about exciting digital technologies lie at the heart of the Digital Lab program. Ericsson has developed the curriculum and provides regular content updates as well as a team of instructors through a network of employee volunteers and student ambassadors to ensure the continued success of the program.

Introducing Artificial Intelligence

One of the content updates in the pipeline is the launch of a new Artificial Intelligence (AI) module that will teach kids the basics of AI. Development of this module has presented challenges due to the huge scope of AI and the need to simplify the complexity in a fun and interactive way for the target audience. Using the experience of the Digital Lab program at Universeum, Ericsson is now working with international partners to bring the program to other parts of the world.

Creating the workforce of the future

There is great demand for programs like the Digital Lab program as education policy makers around the globe realize digital technologies are increasing the demand for new skills, while, at the same time, creating new opportunities and challenges for digital skills development. Education and training systems have both external and internal pressures. First, they have to respond to the external demand for skills from the digital society and the transition to a new world of work. Second, like other sectors, they have to engage in digital transformation.

The ultimate aim of digital transformation must be to deliver successful skills development policy outcomes, and, in the context of Sustainable Development Goal 4, this means ensuring ‘inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, in particular to substantially increase the number of youth and adults with relevant skills for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship’.

Automation – challenges and opportunities

Labor markets around the world are changing at a rapid pace and the demand for employees with digital skills is rising sharply. Some studies suggest that 65 percent of children entering primary school today will have jobs that do not yet exist. The World Bank points to the increasing polarization of labor markets, while the World Economic Forum paints a less gloomy picture and highlights the difference in estimation (2017). It notes that:

“While some estimates have put the risk of automation as high as half of current jobs, other research forecasts indicate a risk at a considerably lower value of 9 percent of today’s occupations. The more conservative estimate takes into account specific job tasks within occupations that, even when not automatable, will go through significant change. On average, a third of the skillsets required to perform today’s jobs will be wholly new by 2020.”

It’s undeniable that a set of new skills are emerging, and digital skills are at the center. In this context the Digital Lab program is a timely example of how Ericsson is using the expertise of its employees and network of student ambassadors to broaden the digital skill base not only with kids in Gothenburg but also at other locations around the globe.

Read the new Connect to Learn report, which describes the program’s approach, evolution, interventions and challenges, and also examines recent developments in the field of ICT-integrated education. You can also learn more about Ericsson’s education-related activities by visiting our Access to Education page.

Written by Paul Landers

Paul Landers is Head of Learning for Ericsson in Sweden and a senior advisor to the Connect to Learn program, which he co-founded and managed between 2010 and 2014. Since joining Ericsson in 1998, he has been deeply involved in the creation of corporate eLearning programs both within Ericsson and as a consultant supporting business partners around the world. Partnering with different European universities, he has also led several EU programs aimed at exploring the intersection of technology and education. He is a regular speaker at global conferences on ICT, education and sustainable development.

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