As a father of two boys, 12 and 6, I naturally worry about their future. I think all parents do, so I am definitely not alone. I worry about things like health, happiness and them having a good marriage. But as a pragmatic person, I tend to think more about things I can have an influence on helping them with. After 14 years of marriage, I still make rookie mistakes, so I’m not sure I qualify to help much in that regard!
One thing I try to do is reinforce the importance of education in the chances of their success. Sure, many people have become successful/wealthy without post-secondary education, but that is becoming less likely all of the time. I also try to stress that while they should pursue a career that will allow them to be fulfilled, they need to keep in mind what jobs may actually be there 20-40 years from now.
I mean….would it make sense for me to move them towards a career that will likely be replaced by robots (like in manufacturing) or automation/software (like accounting)? I think parents need to be cognizant of the fact that while there are no guarantees that any job will be there 50 years from now, we can be assured that the chances of many are next to nil.
One of the areas that I believe will do well in the future is Engineering. While I often tease some engineers for their single-mindedness, I do have a lot of respect for not only their knowledge, but also for the methodologies they learn, as they often are easily applied to many other fields. I have seen successful people in areas ranging from Sales to Marketing to Legal who all have those little rings on their pinkie finger.
In the previous shake-ups (or revolutions) that we have seen in the world of business, they have always targeted the blue collar side of the workforce. The Industrial revolution targeted the manual labourer – whether they worked on a farm, on construction projects or in the transportation field. The Internet revolution was not as aggressive in cutting jobs, but it did take out many positions in Finance, Travel and other areas. However, many people have commented that these two revolutions did not generally go after College-educated people in any significant manner.
Automation will change that. Accountants, analysts and even writers will be attacked like never before…as will positions like chefs and medical assistants. The one field that will likely thrive is Engineering. Here's why:
Humans are devouring software code in numbers that stagger most people’s minds, so Software Engineers will be needed in record numbers. Robots use incredible amounts of computing power, so Computer and Hardware Engineers will be needed to keep up. Finally, the complexity of the devices will mean that repair technicians, while not needed in huge numbers, will have to have Engineering backgrounds.
With the increase in automation comes an increase in Data….the amount that is created, the amount that needs to be stored and the amount that needs to be filtered through to determine what is valuable. Engineers will be needed in all areas...cloud storage/computing, data analysis and communication networks capable of delivering thousands of times what we do now.
I spoke earlier about how Engineering grads have often found success in other areas and this is not by accident. A methodical way of thinking often helps to solve the most complex problems, regardless of the field where they may be. Many engineers bring this to the table. As well, the most successful Engineers I have seen take this ability and combine it with some creativity to go on to successful C-level careers, something I expect to see more. Expect more CEOs to come from MIT and less from Harvard Business School in the future.
So, should we all just push our kids into Engineering? Of course not…there will be plenty of need for other fields including Medicine, Arts and Business. However, the goal of any parent should be to help place their kids into a position that allows them to have the best chance of success. I think a background in Engineering does this. It obviously does not ensure anything….it can’t replace drive, determination and will, but there are other ways you can instill these traits in your children.