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The data on job creation does not support the idea that robots and AI are going to put us all in the soup line anytime soon. What the data do suggest, however, is that the requirements of work are changing in an ever-accelerating way. Current institutional approaches to education and job training have no chance in keeping up with the reskilling and training needs of our current and future workforce. Once again technology is coming to the rescue. I call this rescue mission “real time task support.” We are beginning to use some modest AI with Augmented Reality, which gives task doers the information they need when they need it to perform their jobs.
The modern workforce needs to spend a small amount of time being educated and most of their time being supported while they do their jobs. Internships and apprenticeships are ways to provide on the job training and support but they rely too much on the availability of subject matter expert support and there is just not enough of those workers around to meet the demand for their replacements. In addition, having newbees teamed with experienced workers is very expensive, as employers are paying both workers to do one job.
Higher education is not at all equipped to deal with the ever more rapidly evolving nature of work. The idea of spending 4 years and $100k (give or take) to prepare someone to be trained for a job is inefficient and unnecessary. The arguments in favor of the socialization and critical thinking aspects of the college experience cannot be justified by the cost, whether those costs are born by the student or taxpayers levied to pay for free education. Besides, kids are getting those soft skills in high school and through their involvement with social media.
Clearly, higher education is needed to teach the complex content of majors such as biology, medicine and engineering. I see no obvious way to shorten the time needed to provide that part of education. But even here the changing nature of the content makes for a pretty short shelf life for what is learned. For example, doctors admit that the content they got in med school is totally outdated within five years of graduation.
Training has played a key role in moving people from educated to ready to work. Training is longer on relevance than college curriculum but is too general to fit specific jobs with specific employers and most of it suffers from being boring beyond belief.
VR training is the latest approach to providing “engaging” training, but I see it as suffering from the same problem that struck its ancestors. High production costs have killed scores of companies trying to make the training experience engaging.
AI/AR delivered task support is in line with our most recent and future generations of new workers. These cohorts learn what they need when they need it (they Google it). They are much more comfortable using technology than turning a wrench. I believe they are much more likely to take a skilled trades job if, besides the pay, a) they can get the job without spending years in getting qualified for the work or spending a lot of time with an older worker who will doubtless share how they walked 5 miles to school through two feet of snow, and b) providing them with the tools to do the job (AR) in a way consistent with how they have been interacting with the world since they were toddlers. Employers can put workers to work much faster and safer and workers can get into good paying jobs much faster and cheaper.
One final point as the content delivered with AR is mostly customized for specific jobs. The good news is that that content can leverage current company and OEM training content and does not need to have high production values, as users are focused on the job they are doing, not the reference information they need to do the job correctly and safely. But custom is custom and the tradeoff for companies is between the cost of development and the cost of not having it. I claim the tradeoff favors AR development for any job where failure to get it right brings production to a halt or results serious worker injury.
Augmented Reality Inc is a provider of AR content and development services for industrial companies employing skilled trades workers doing maintenance, diagnostic or repair tasks.