Professor Sean Thorpe, the Head of the School of Computing and Information Technology (SCIT) at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech Jamaica) advised students to be interdisciplinary and flexible in the workplace, and to also think big with their ideas. Speaking during a webinar on the future of the workplace amidst the COVID-19 pandemic held on Thursday, he encouraged students to be creative and innovative, and also placed emphasis on their being both a generalist/ specialist in their respective fields. The webinar targeted students and other individuals looking to enter the current workplace and anyone whose employment is currently affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Publicity flyer for the SCIT webinar: "Future of work in the new COVID centric environment"
Publicity flyer for the SCIT webinar: “Future of work in the new COVID centric environment”

Planning for COVID-19 

While stating that COVID-19 will be here in Jamaica for a while, Professor Thorpe encouraged students to be agile when looking into the future workplace, given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has forced all of the major industries to implement heavy changes to keep themselves afloat. Thorpe made references to studies related to the accounting field and fields of a repetitive nature stating that, “accounting jobs are at major risk” and this was provided by a 2020 Gartner study which stated that by 2025 all accounting jobs will be automated. He also made reference to Company Zero in the U.S.A., which provides accounting services, saying that approximately 1.3 million accounting clerk jobs were being replaced in that country.

Looking into the future, Professor Thorpe identifies automation, artificial intelligence, POS and online banking systems as the driving forces of the workplace. Regarding the impact of the pandemic on education, he stated that, “universities and colleges are high density places for the spread of COVID-19 hence bringing the future of work now.” In relation to students locally, Thorpe stated that approximately 65% of high school graduates don’t know what they want to do, hence raising the issue of technological advancements in a post-pandemic society.

Technological Perspective

Clive Beckford, a graduate of SCIT and Manager of the Innovation Lab at Innovate 10X also added to Professor Thorpe’s view.  Beckford’s perspective was from a wider technological angle, and stated that a wider array or depth of knowledge must be applied in the workplace from a technological perspective. More programmers, data analysts and network managers are needed to aid moving businesses forward.

Beckford also stated that students should identify the industry to which they want to offer their skillset to, and stated that specialisation is only necessary in specific industries. Beckford believes that every aspect of businesses should be digitized, companies should revamp how they get results and that every business must create a digital space. One initiative Jamaica could take to aid the move forward is to implement the creation of a local internet network, as Jamaica buys bandwidth from the USA. Beckford believes that there would be greater reliability with a local network.

UTech Jamaica, through Professor Thorpe, has several projects they wish to implement not only for the benefit of the university but for Jamaica as a whole. The world has evolved rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic and it is important for the current and future workforce that changes be made in our work lives and workspace in order to move forward into the future.

Reported by Dominic Townsend-McLeod

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