Home Book Reviews Emerging Industries and Implications for Education and Our Students and Children

Emerging Industries and Implications for Education and Our Students and Children



Learning and looking ahead so we can help young people experience less of this.
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Getting a Leg up on What Tomorrow's Work Place Holds for our Students, our Children, and Ourselves

This week we've been exploring the new book, The Industries of the Future, by Alec Ross. On Monday we introduced the book and the author, Tuesday we took at look at the evolving state of Robotics, and Wednesday we got into Big Data. The book also explores CyberSecurity, Genetics, and more. It is a fascinating treatise that I highly recommend to anyone interested in how the world and the workplace is changing rapidly as these industries evolve and impact economies, jobs, and the young people we are teaching.

So many factors play into how a country's economy and people can compete and excel in the evolving global work place. Education is undeniably one of these factors (of course, it is important to note that various other social, political, and economic elements are also very significant influences).

Investing in Quality Education

A few excerpts help to paint the picture of how vital quality education is to positioning countries and their citizens to compete and succeed in the world economy:

“China's population is 251 times that of Singapore, but they compete fiercely against each other in innovation. Singapore is able to compete with China because it delivers some of the best primary education  in the world.”

“India trains around 1.5 million engineers every year, which is more than the United States and China combined. India's first primer minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, focused significant resources on IT and higher education. His government oversaw the establishment of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the Indian Institutes of Technology, and the Indian Institutes of Management, which are among the next professional training centers in any emerging market – indeed, in any market at all. This talent base fuels foreign direct investment. Over the past two decades, many multinationals have shifted research and development to India.”

Investment and development of robust educational programs will play a huge role in the extent to which different states and countries are able to partake in these upwardly mobile, forward-thinking industries. As noted in our recent article on Robotics, “‘There are more than 100 automation departments in Chinese universities, compared to approximately 76 in the United States despite the larger total number of university in the United States.' Western culture has a lot of catching up to do with regards to robotics, and its high time we get a move on.” Similarly, China has invested heavily in genetics education and research and has now become a world leader in this area.

If institutions of higher education wish to do their best to position their students for promising roles in the evolving world economy, an investment in the proper educational programs is vital.

Enabling and Supporting our “Digital Natives”

While the term “digital natives” gets rightly derided because not all young people are as digitally literate as some might imagine, there is no doubt that today's school aged demographic has been immersed in digital technologies to an unprecedented extent.

“A second major condition necessary for societies to compete and succeed in the industries of the future is to have young people whose ideas are funded and whose place in the organizational charts belies their youth. This will seem ridiculously obvious to anybody who has worked in Silicon Valley. It is less obvious to most others. At age 43, I am frequently the oldest person in any business meeting in Silicon Valley. In Europe, I am frequently the youngest.”

“It's a complaint I hear every time I travel to Spain, France, or Italy. Increasingly, if a young aspiring entrepreneur is not willing to wait until his forties to be taken seriously, he [or she] leaves and starts his company in a more youth-friendly culture like London, Berlin, or Silicon Valley.”

Ross goes on to cite Africa as another solid example of a location where youth and technical know-how are creating a culture of innovation and upward mobility:

“More and more of Africa's technology-savvy youth are entering the workforce and starting their own companies or working remotely for Asian, American, or European companies. This is changing the nature of Africa's relationship with the rest of the world as its connections shift from being rooted in philanthropy and development aid to being rooted in business.”

The bottom line: we must continue investing heavily in our young people, and ensure that they have the education and skills to excel in this quickly changing world.

The Most Important Job you Will Ever Have

Alec Ross wraps up The Industries of the Future with recommendations to parents regarding what they can do to position their children to succeed. These recommendations carry over to education as well.

Ross observed a few common themes as he made a point of asking just about everyone he interviewed for the book what attributes today's kids will need for tomorrow's economy. These boil down to these two recommendations – provide kids with global exposure, and encourage them to learn a technical or scientific language.

Global exposure can consist of travel, but it can also be facilitated in so many other ways in this technological age. Learning a foreign language, collaborating with students across the world, connecting with relatives in other countries … these all provide exposure to the world around us and how other cultures differ from ours.

When it comes to learning a technical or scientific language, this can be as straightforward as a programming language, or take a less obvious route, such as immersion in the vernacular of a technical or scientific discipline (most of these do indeed have a language of their own, often coupled with their own lexicon of acronyms).

To illustrate the impact of these ideas, Ross reflects on the stories of several young entrepreneurs he wrote about in the book. One of these, 24-year-old venture capitalist Sheel Tyle was inspired by Sudanese mobile phone billionaire Mo Ibrahim. His parents are both from India and came to the US for their college educations. They were not wealthy, but they would regularly look for opportunities to take Sheel and his younger brother on trips that would help make them more worldly. It worked … even as a child, Sheel envisioned their lives and careers being played out in a global context. Today he is the youngest venture capitalist with a senior role at a major Silicon Valley venture capital firm, and his brother is the Chief Operating Officer for Hired.com.

Further Exploration

I also shared various other insights into opportunities and requirements for education and our students in yesterday's post, including the importance of helping kids understand the potential importance and impact of their “data footprint”, as well as implications for marketing, retention management, etc. I suggest clicking over that post and scrolling down to the “Implications for Education” section for further exploration.

I want to thank our regular readers for indulging me this week with this digression from our typical focus on instruction and instructional technologies. Of course, emerging technologies and their potential impact on education is also an important theme we explore, and this week's exploration of this informative publication is in line with that. I feel strongly that this is a topic educators should be aware of, and hope that many readers concur. Thank you again for your continued readership and support!
- K. Walsh



  1. “We must continue investing heavily in our young people, and ensure that they have the education and skills to excel in this quickly changing world.” In our continuously advancing world, technology is becoming a larger part of everyday work and activities. Technology must be integrated into students’ curriculum in order to ensure the success for their futures. Teacher must be prepared and well trained to implement these advances in our education. Schools should be providing the tools and technology for the teachers and students to succeed including having one to one technology for each student. Our students are the future of our world, therefore, more emphasis should be placed on technology in the classroom. Students should be able to explore and collaborate with the entire world and be computer literate before graduating from school. I believe it is the role of educators to use the most up to date technology in the classroom to ensure students are successful in the future.

  2. \’The industries of the future\’ sounds like a fascinating book! It is very true that with education more than ever we need to be thinking about teaching students the skills they will need for the future, not for the present. This is definitely becoming more difficult in our rapidly evolving industries but clearly a key theme is technology and STEM subjects definitely need to be a focus.

  3. Ross’ recommendation regarding education of our youth, “encourage them to learn a technical or scientific language…” adds emphasis to the need for educators to include computer literacy into today’s curriculum. Needed is the realization of 1:1 distribution of laptops and ongoing professional development of K-12 teachers in the integration of technology into the curriculum. Technical preparation should begin in the teacher training colleges.


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