A report from Intuit notes that fully 25 to 30% of today’s workforce in the U.S. is already categorized as self-employed or freelancers!
The Intuit report further suggests that through this decade -
“The number of contingent employees will increase worldwide. In the U.S. alone, contingent workers will exceed 40 percent of the workforce by 2020.
• Traditional full-time, full-benefit jobs will be harder to find.
• Small businesses will develop their own collaborative networks of contingent workers, minimizing fixed labor costs and expanding the available talent pool.
• Self-employment, personal and micro business numbers will increase.”
And an article at the Quartz blog site by Jeremy Neuner notes that 40% of the U.S. work force amounts to over 60 million people. Mr Neuner is CEO and co-founder of Next Space, which builds coworking communities.
In 2006 according to a government survey the number was already over 40 million people and around 30% of the workforce. The term “contingent workers” covers contractors, temps and self-employed. Temporary and contract workers represent some 22% of the workforce even at the largest 200 companies.
“The forces behind this sea-change are many: the rapid adoption of mobile technology, ubiquitous internet access, and a general sense of malaise powered by the vague yet nagging notion that we’re just not meant to work all day sitting in a cubicle. Add to that the waste of time, energy and brainpower that commuting engenders, and it becomes apparent that our definition of “workplace” will never be the same. It may seem like a tug of war between companies and workers, but in fact they share common goals: using technology and mobility to maximize productivity, innovation, and well-being.”
While the decreasing proportion of traditional jobs may seem like bad news, we are seeing a great resurgence in startup companies, especially in fields like Cloud Computing and Social Media. Thanks to Internet and Cloud computing technologies, starting a new company is much less expensive than before. The genomics revolution is at hand and will generate many new jobs in biotech. And 3-D printing technology will allow a return of manufacturing jobs to the U.S. and increase the opportunity for new small-scale, non-capital intensive, manufacturing companies. These new companies also bring new models of work, a Net-Work model of collaboration via networks of people and the Internet.
The theme of shifting work models was explored in Tom Friedman’s recent article in the N.Y. Times, reporting on his interview withTony Warner, Harvard education specialist and author of the book Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World.
Mr. Friedman notes that earning good middle class wages requires a higher level of skill than ever. Skill as used here has a broad context, incorporating critical thinking, creativity, innovation, motivation, communication and teamwork.
Mr. Warner explains that “what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. The capacity to innovate — the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life — and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important”.
We know that even full time jobs in large companies are requiring more initiative, creativity, problem solving, teamwork than ever before. Here’s one approach to recommend -
“Finland is one of the most innovative economies in the world,” Warner said, “and it is the only country where students leave high school ‘innovation-ready.’ They learn concepts and creativity more than facts, and have a choice of many electives — all with a shorter school day, little homework, and almost no testing.”
Warner suggests students need to have digital portfolios which they build during their K-12 years and beyond, highlighting critical thinking, communication skills, creativity and initiative. Whether students end up as freelancers or within a large company these skills and the ability to collaborate within real and virtual teams will be vital to success.
Curriki aims to be at the forefront of these education trends by providing free, open source resources that are highly adaptable in support of project-based learning and other methodologies. This is all in support of the goal of helping students develop teamwork and communication skills, creativity and initiative to help them to better succeed in our high-tech world.