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Skills Development Scotland partnered with the RSA to better understand the world of work in 2035 to help inform how we drive a resilient skills system.  

The report, published on Medium, was developed following a series of workshops with SDS staff, Scottish learning providers, employers, policy makers and trade union representatives. 

It warns that Scotland must build on its strengths to meet the challenges of automation and artificial intelligence and focus on reskilling and upskilling those most at risk from automation. It also states that policymakers should invest in skills to enable Scotland’s people and businesses to take advantage of the evolving nature of work, and change funding structures in order to future-proof skills training and development.  

The report looks at four scenarios for 2035:  

The Big Tech Economy where technologies develop at a rapid pace, delivering significant improvements in the quality of products and public services, and reduced costs for everyday goods. However, unemployment and economic insecurity creep upwards.  

The Precision Economy, a future of hyper-surveillance where technological progress is moderate, but a proliferation of sensors allows firms to create value by capturing and analysing more information. Gig economy platforms take on more prominence and rating systems become pervasive in the workplace.  

The Empathy Economy, a future of responsible stewardship where technology advances at pace, but so too does public awareness of its perceived dangers meaning tech companies work to create new products that work on everyone’s terms. Disposable income flows into ‘empathy sectors’ like education, care and entertainment.  

The Exodus Economy, characterised by economic slowdown which dries up funding for innovation and keeps the UK in a low-skilled, low-productivity and low-paid rut causing. While some workers struggle on poverty wages, others discover ways to live more self-sufficiently, including by moving away from urban areas.  

SDS is already thinking about what action we need to take to prepare people and business to thrive in the global economy and this report is a useful tool for exploring possible futures and discussing how individuals, employers and the skills and learning system can respond in a way that is agile and resilient.

Damien Yeates, Skills Development Scotland Chief Executive

Damien Yeates, Skills Development Scotland Chief Executive, said: None of us can predict the future, but we can prepare for it.   

“The rapid advancements of Industry 4.0, along with other social and economic challenges, will fundamentally change the world of work. This report by the RSA helps us to think about the skills and capacities we will need to thrive in a world that will be profoundly different to that of today.  

“SDS is already thinking about what action we need to take to prepare people and business to thrive in the global economy and this report is a useful tool for exploring possible futures and discussing how individuals, employers and the skills and learning system can respond in a way that is agile and resilient.”  

Fabian Wallace Stephens, Senior Researcher, RSA Future Work Centre added: “Scotland, like other parts of the UK, has already seen significant changes in employment over the previous decade. Automation and the rise of the gig economy have increased economic security, but this can be avoided with adequate preparation for Scotland’s skills environment. 

“We’re excited by tech-driven approaches to easing the access to skills training, but more needs to be done. Government, private sector and third sectors organisations need to work together to create a resilient economy and tackle the precarity faced by Scottish workers.”   

Read the report 

The report is available to read on Medium.

The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) is an independent charity which believes in a world where everyone is able to participate in creating a better future. Their work covers a number of areas including the rise of the 'gig economy', robotics & automation; education & creative learning; and reforming public services to put communities in control. 

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