When Víctor Alberto*, a 30-year old chef and graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Lima, Perú, told his parents he wanted to go to culinary school, they laughed. His father, a psychology professor, and his mother, a mathematician, had expected him to pursue a more white-collar occupation or take a cue from his younger sister, who was majoring in chemical engineering at one of Lima's most prestigious universities.
Alberto, who was recently recruited by a trendy Miami restaurant, personifies the next two 21st century workplace skills we will be discussing today: novel and adaptive thinking, and cross-cultural competency.
3. Novel and Adaptive Thinking: Proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based.
According to MIT professor David Autor, global offshoring and the automation of routine work have caused job opportunities to shrink in certain white-collar and blue-collar industries. Work that was once performed by people on assembly lines now can be done by machines, and certain middle-skill, white-collar jobs have been outsourced to technology centers in Asia, India or Latin America.
On the opposite end of the job outlook spectrum, career opportunities are becoming increasingly concentrated in both low-wage, low-skill jobs such as personal care and food service, and in high-wage, high-skill management and technical positions. What sets these two seemingly disparate job categories apart from the diminishing middle-skill, white-collar and blue-collar positions is the ability to respond in the moment to unanticipated situations.
The IFTF report suggests that being able to react and respond to the unexpected requires novel thinking and adaptability. Further, these skills will be in high demand in the future workplace, as offshoring and automation continue. For Alberto, being able to create original, unique dishes using a prescribed inventory of ingredients sets him apart from workers at a food processing plant whose repetitive tasks can be handled by sophisticated machines.
Had Alberto trained for a mid-level, white-collar profession that is predictable and requires little to no outside-the-box thinking, it's possible he would have faced some challenges finding a job, given the decline in these types of positions.
4. Cross-Cultural Competency: The ability to operate in different cultural settings
In keeping with the foodie theme, culinary bad boy and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain noted in his bestselling memoir, "Kitchen Confidential," that one of his preferred stints involved working at a restaurant whose line chefs came from all over the world. The IFTF study predicts that cross-cultural competency will become a critical skill for all 21st century workers, regardless of whether they work abroad or in the U.S.
As noted in the study, diversity comprises not just national or ethnic origin but age, skills, disciplines, working styles and ways of thinking. The key is to be able to successfully communicate shared goals, priorities and values in a way that transcends differences and helps foster a spirit of collaboration. For Alberto, who is on the fast track to becoming a head chef, the ability to work effectively with restaurant staff from the U.S., Latin America and Asia may give him an edge in the 21st century restaurant business.
Tomorrow, why computational thinking and new-media literacy will be important in the future workplace.
*Name changed for privacy
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