“Change is constant and everything inconvenient will change,” declared Chris Luebkeman, Global Director of Arup Foresight at last year’s Global Talent Summit. How we prepare for that change will hinge in whether we are asking the right questions. We ended last year’s summit with more questions than answers. Now in its sixth year, GTS set out to convene cross-sector educators, experts, and public officials from around the world to answer the tough questions about the future of education. This year’s theme sought to answer where will we be in 30 years, and how can we prepare younger generations for the future? Here are the key takeaways.

1. The future workforce needs purpose.

Annabella Peng, Founder and CEO of Global Entrepreneurial Leaders Institute (GELI).

For Generation Z, figuring out the motivations of top talent will be key in recruiting and retaining them. Global Entrepreneurial Leaders Institute (GELI) founder Annabella Peng drew attention to unique research GELI had conducted, which has found that Gen Z is dedicated to serious social causes, not mere fame or money. The employer on the panel agreed: any corporation that wants to retain top talent from this generation must invest in not only training, but in empowering employees to find meaning in their careers, said adidas Digital IT VP Sebastian Drews. Empowering employees to find a greater sense of purpose is essential to recruiting and retaining top talent from this coming-of-age generation.

2. Education has never been more expensive or more worthless.

Panel: Chris Purifoy, CEO, Learning Economy; Annabella Peng, CEO, Global Entrepreneurial Leaders Institute; Tim Sullivan, CEO, Oceanic Partners; Sebastian Drews, VP Digital IT, Adidas; and Ana Rold, CEO and Publisher, Diplomatic Courier.

Globally, more is being invested in education than ever before, and yet we’re seeing less and less results. Education is ripe for disruption, and yet it hasn’t happened because key stakeholders haven’t had a source of quality, consistent educational data. But tools that use data to help fuel feedback on human capital investment exist and will help lead the charge. New technologies such as AI and blockchain will be key in this effort.

3. Data will change the face of education.

Data can help us organize, quantify, and discern the quality of education. According to Learning Economy CEO Chris Purifoy, Learning Economy will provide real-time feedback on investment in education, in a way that will influence important decisions in policy. Data will become fuel for changing the global economy, and can create a commodity based on this fuel.

4. Education is the new gold standard.

Tim Sullivan, CEO, Oceanic Partners.

Traditionally, education has been the domain of philanthropy. But Oceanic Partners CEO Tim Sullivan believes it’s time for investors to get in and see the returns they desire. What then, can make investment in education profitable and purposeful? Data is the new oil, and educational data can power growth in educational innovation. Quality educational data will become a real opportunity for investment in education to provide a serious return, which could change the face of human capital investment. Just like a trillion-dollar economy is backed on the inherent value of gold, it may be possible to back an economy on the inherent value education and see massive economic growth.

5. The need for reskilling may perpetuate inequality.

Panel: Jacob Sherson, Founder and Executive Director, Science at Home; Angelika Reich, Partner Zurich Office, McKinsey; Tomasz Klekowski, Digital Transformation Expert, IT Competence Council of Polish Information Society; Robin Errico, Chief Risk Officer, Diversity and Inclusion, EY; and, Lauren Maffeo, Senior Content Analyst, GetApp, Gartner.

According to Angelika Reich, partner at McKinsey & Company, as much as 14 percent of the global workforce will change industries in the next ten years. With the rise of automation, newer jobs will require more intensive training, leaving behind many of those who don’t have access to training. Automation will not eliminate jobs entirely; instead, more jobs that require emotional intelligence and soft skills will rise.

6. New technologies impact different economies in different ways.

The impacts of technological development vary from country to country. As highlighted by Tomasz Klekowski from IT Competence Council of the Polish Information Society, central and eastern European countries were on the receiving end of the benefits of tech development. The internet allowed global companies to move into these spaces and thrive. It’s not without downsides, however. The rise of automation puts jobs in Slovakia at a 62 percent chance for automation. Jobs in countries like New Zealand, however, only have a 32 percent chance.

7. The gender gap in STEM may give rise to biased AI.

Robin Errico, Chief Risk Officer, Diversity and Inclusion, EY.

One of the greatest challenges in diversity and inclusion in the workplace is the gender gap in STEM fields. With further developments in AI and automation technology, notes Robin Errico Chief Risk Officer and Diversity and Inclusion at EY, we’re further exacerbating the problem by potentially creating technology with implicit gender biases.

8. To solve the skills gap, we need to understand what skills are.

The modern workforce is young, with millennials being the largest group of current workers. Jacob Sherson, Founder and Director of ScienceAtHome poses a challenge: to bridge the skills gap inherent in this young workforce, we need to understand what we mean by skills. Even further, once we identify skills such as creativity or leadership, we need to ask: What is creativity? Understanding what humans can and can’t do is vital in closing the skills gap.

9. Soft skills development is vital and should start from an early age.

Panel: Bob Sumner, Associate Director, Disney Research and Professor ETH Zurich; Ji Han, Director of Curriculum and Learning, Zurich International School; Anders Hedberg, Senior Advisor, Workforce Development, Diplomatic Courier; Janet Rafner, Director of Learning, Science at Home; and, Manjula Dissanayake, Executive Director, Educate Lanka Foundation.

Many students leave higher education, especially in STEM fields, with hard skills such as logic, problem-solving, and specialized certifications. However, employers look for both hard and soft skills. And if candidates cannot display empathy, creativity, and the ability to contribute to a team, they will have a hard time finding employment. Integrating soft skills into a school curriculum starting from primary education can help mitigate this issue, which is exactly what Ji Han, Director of Curriculum and Learning at Zurich International School is working toward. Fostering soft skills, she believes students need to “learn how to learn”, which enables them to think one step ahead while approaching problems in and outside of the classroom. 

10. Talent is universal; opportunity is not.

Learning skills such as web design, coding, robotics, and engineering-based projects are going to be a large part of school curriculums in order to prepare students to enter the modern workforce. While technology in the classroom will present incredible opportunities for certain students, it could contribute to the global skills gap—certain students will be left even further behind, and will be less prepared for the workforce.  According to Manjula Dissanayake, Executive Director of Educate Lanka Foundation, “Talent is universal; opportunity is not”. Dissanayake aims to bridge access to technology and opportunity to students in Sri Lanka by involving the private sector as stakeholders in education. Encouraging collaboration between the private and education sectors could be one solution to ensure students in certain communities, cities, and countries, have better access to opportunities.

11. Video games and learning can work better together.

Game-based learning will be one of the key changes in the way students are educated in the 21st century. Robert Sumner, Professor at ETH Zurich and Associate Director of Disney Research and Janet Rafner, Director of ScienceAtHome at Aarhus University, both believe in the power of game-based learning to enhance logical and problem-solving skills. Gamification allows students of all ages to learn both hard skills and soft skills in a way that is fun, engaging, and accessible. Sumner pointed to the increasing need for students to be involved in computer science from a young age, as skills learned in this discipline will span a variety of fields such as medicine and architecture. Additionally, Rafner explained that game-based learning could be a way for typically underrepresented populations to become involved in computer science, as it has the potential to be more accessible.

12. Learning happens beyond and outside of school.

Kelly Palmer, Chief Learning Officer, Degreed and former Chief Learning Officer, LinkedIn.

The way that we learn, and our motivations for learning are shifting. Students and employees are often learning skills outside of their school or place of work—through videos, apps, forums, and more. The workforce as we know it is currently and will continue to change dramatically. Employers will be faced with automating certain jobs, retraining for certain skills, and creating new positions altogether. Employees who do not adapt to changes and learn new skills will be left behind. According to Kelly Palmer, Chief Learning Officer of Degreed, businesses will be able to better adapt to changes in the workforce by taking an audit of skills their employees already have, and by better understanding what skills their employees are willing to learn. Understanding people’s motivations for learning, and preparing for workplace changes now will help employers stay afloat during a time of rapid changes.

13. Employers must foster a growth-focused environment to retain talent.

Danny Laker, Innovation Strategy & Business Creation Lead, Accenture Digital Industry X.0.

Danny Laker, Lead for Innovation, AI, and Blockchain Business at Accenture, expressed the need for employers to foster an environment of learning for the people they hire by investing in the person rather than just the skillset. Most people desire to learn and grow beyond their job description instead of staying stagnant in their career. When employers support their employees’ individual passions and interests, it will encourage an environment of growth, collaboration, and constant learning in the workplace.

14. Blockchain and AI will help map the future of education.

Danny Laker, Innovation Strategy & Business Creation Lead, Accenture Digital Industry X.0; Kelly Palmer, Chief Learning Officer, Degreed; Jacksón Smith, Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder, Learning Economy; Host Shalini Trefzer, Senior Advisor, Global Talent Summit.

Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence will usher in a wave of changes in education, learning, and the workforce. Jacksón Smith, Chief Technology Officer of Learning Economy, spoke about the potential for these technologies to augment our lives and personalize the way we learn and work. Technology is constantly being updated to best serve our needs. According to Smith, the invention of the computer provided us the ability to store information, and the internet allowed us to transfer information. Now, AI has the ability to process and organize information, and blockchain has the ability to transfer value. These abilities will augment our educations and jobs, allowing us to personalize the way we learn.

The seventh edition of the Global Talent Summit will take place the first quarter of 2020. You can continue the conversation year-round by signing up for our forums and discussions at www.globaltalentsummit.org.

But it’s difficult to think about value when we have no buoy for understanding it outside our traditional lenses: for example, our time, our job, and what others tell us they are worth in cash. This, largely, is the world’s paradigm for value so far. But understanding what value really means changes everything—and will be at the center of the decentralized revolution in global coordination that will unfold over the next decade. So, where do we begin?

Let’s start with gold.

Gold is an inherent value. When backing a market, gold allows us to grow a balanced economy well into the trillions. But why does it allow for massive stable markets to form around it? It is gold's permanence that creates stability. We understand that gold will always have value, because it is inherent in all of us, not just in one part of the world, but everywhere, not just today, but tomorrow and for the long haul.

In the 1930s when the gold standard was removed, we learned that the U.S. dollar didn’t need gold to back its economy to flourish. We learned that it was just a symbol for U.S. citizens to decentralize their coordination around the United States economy.

It turns out, common agreement is a philosophy for building shared economy.

And so it seems inherent value is a marker for us to begin exploring what the future could look like—a future beyond gold and the existing realm of credit. And so what else has inherent value? Is education as valuable as gold? What about healthcare? What about a vote that can’t be tampered with? What about an ID that can’t be stolen or erased? What about access to nutrition or clean water? You will find value everywhere you look.

It turns out, we’ve already done the legwork necessary to uncover the most elemental inherent values: The Sustainable Development Goals are commitments grown out of the drive to bring to life basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the closest possible social contract we have to a global, common agreement.

We’ve already agreed, as a global community, to ensure inclusive and equitable access to quality education. We’ve already agreed to empower all women and girls, to ensure pure and clean water access for all, to promote health at all stages of life, and to end hunger.

We’ve already agreed.

Our agreements are grounded in deep value centers that are globally shared, but undervalued and unfulfilled. The reason for this is our inability to quantify intangible value. All of these rich, inherent values are still nebulous and fragmented in implementation—largely existing as ideals and blueprints for deep, globally shared common agreement. That is, we all agree education, health, and equality have value, but we lack common units for understanding who and who is not contributing value—leaving us to fumble in our own, uncoordinated siloes as we chase the phantoms of impact. In essence, we lack common currencies for our common agreements.

Now we find ourselves at the nexus of the real paradigm of Blockchain, allowing us to fuse economics with inherent value by proving the participation of some great human effort, then quantifying the impact of that effort in unforgeable and decentralized ledgers. It allows us to build economic models for tomorrow, that create wholly new markets and economies for and around each of the richest of human endeavors.

In late 2017 at the height of the Bitcoin bubble, without individual coordination, planning, or the help of institutions, almost $1 trillion was infused into blockchain markets. This is remarkable, and the revolution has only just begun. When you realize that Blockchain is in a similar stage of development as the internet pre-AOL, you will see a glimpse of the global transformation to come.

Only twice in the information age have we had such a paradigm shift in global infrastructure reform—the computer and the internet. While the computer taught us how to store and process data, the Internet built off that ability and furthered the conversation by teaching us how to transfer that information. Blockchain takes another massive step forward—it builds off the internet, adding to the story of information storage and transfer—but, it teaches us a new, priceless and not yet understood skill: how to transfer value.

This third wave kicked off with a rough start—as happens with the birth of new technologies and their corresponding liberties. Blockchain has, thus far, been totally unregulated. Many, doubtless, have taken advantage. A young child, stretching their arms for the first couple times might knock over a cookie jar or two. Eventually, however, they learn to use their faculties—for evil or for good. As such, while it’s wise to be skeptical at this phase in blockchain’s evolution, it’s important not to be blind to its remarkable implications in a post-regulated world, so that we may wield its faculties like a surgeon’s scalpel—not for evil or snake-oil sales, but for the creation of more good, for the flourishing of commonwealth.

But what of the volatility in blockchain markets? People agree Bitcoin has value, but they don’t understand why they are in agreement, and so cryptomarkets fluctuate violently.  Stable blockchain economies will require new symbolic gold standards that clearly articulate why someone would agree to support each market, to anchor common agreement with stability. The more globally shared these new value standards, the better.

Is education more valuable than gold? What about healthcare or nutrition or clean water?

We set out in 2018 to prove a hypothesis—we believe that if you back a cryptocurrency economy with a globally agreed upon inherent value like education, you can solve for volatility and stabilize a mature long lasting cryptomarket that awards everyone who adds value to that market in a decentralized way without the friction of individual partnerships.

What if education was a new gold standard?

And what if this new Learning Economy had protocols to award everyone who is helping to steward the growth of global education?

Education is a mountain. Everyone takes a different path to the top. Blockchain allows us to measure all of those unique learning pathways, online and in classrooms, into immutable blockchain Learning Ledgers.

By quantifying the true value of education, a whole economy can be built around it to pay students to learn, educators to create substantive courses, and stewards to help the Learning Economy grow. It was designed to provide a decentralized way for everyone adding value to global education to coordinate around the commonwealth without the friction of individual partnerships. Imagine the same for healthcare, nutrition, and our environment?

Imagine a world where we can pay refugees to learn languages as they find themselves in foreign lands, a world where we can pay those laid off by the tide of automation to retrain themselves for the new economy, a world where we can pay the next generation to prepare themselves for the unsolved problems of tomorrow.

Imagine new commonwealth economies that alleviate the global burdens of poverty, disease, hunger, inequality, ignorance, toxic water, and joblessness. Commonwealths that orbit inherent values, upheld by immutable blockchain protocols that reward anyone in the ecosystem stewarding the economy—whether that means feeding the hungry, providing aid for the global poor, delivering mosquito nets in malaria-ridden areas, or developing transformative technologies that can provide a Harvard-class education to anyone in the world willing to learn.

These worlds are not out of reach—we are only now opening our eyes to the horizons of blockchain, decentralized coordination, and new gold standards. Even though coordination is the last of the seventeen sustainable development goals, when solved, its tide will lift for the rest—a much-needed rocket fuel for global prosperity.

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.”  —George Washington
Hannah Bergstrom
Hannah Bergstrom is a Diplomatic Courier Correspondent and Brand Ambassador for the Learning Economy.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.