We live in a digital world but, according to a recent report from global management company Accenture, our education system prepares us for an analogue past.

Intelligence technologies such as artificial intelligence are coming and will change the way we work and that could mean up to 38 per cent of jobs becoming fully automated.

And most at risk of displacement are older workers, the less educated, manual labour roles, and those in smaller businesses.

"They are more vulnerable to work dislocation and have less access to training," says Justin Gray, country managing director, Accenture New Zealand.


He says targeted intervention is required to guide them to appropriate training and career pathways.

"Courses must be more modular and flexible to adapt around their life commitments. New funding models must encourage lifelong learning, such as grants to support personal training plans."

The findings illustrate the importance of reskilling and introducing new approaches to primary, secondary, tertiary and professional learning in order to equip workers for this digital future.

Sought-after attributes will focus more on soft skills like adaptability, complex reasoning, creativity, socio-emotional intelligence and sensory perception.

Part of the problem, Gray believes is an education system that, too often, only pays lip service to technology.

"We have some promising technology focused initiatives in the education sector, but these need to become more integrated and universally available. This is especially important as we move into an increasingly digitised world.

"Evidence from neuroscience and behavioural science research shows us there are better ways to learn, to best equip our future workforce.

"Many of the most important skills such as complex reasoning, creativity, socio-emotional intelligence and sensory perception are best acquired through practise, immersion and hands-on experience and experiential techniques, rather than traditional types of learning.


Gray points to virtual reality, which he says is a highly effective medium for delivering experiential learning.

"We learn and remember activities by doing it for ourselves, rather than being told what it entails. Educators should begin encouraging a better-rounded set of skills from primary school. The UK, which is strong in the creative industries, is currently debating whether initiatives to improve STEM skills have compromised efforts to encourage creativity, through classes like drama, music and art."

He says that outdated education and training systems put significant economic opportunities at risk for New Zealand.

"Without the skills needed to operate and work alongside machines, intelligent technologies such as artificial intelligence will not be as effective, and we'll lose out as a nation."

That means a shift of focus from standardised institutional curriculum to individual learning through work experience such as apprenticeships.

"Additionally, vulnerable learners should be given more opportunity to attend training sessions through financial grants and personal training plans.

"We also need to fast track next-generation technologies and support the adoption of new innovations — for example, 5G networks and advances in headset-based and haptic technologies — to transform experiential learning opportunities."

And key, he says, will be upskilling our teachers.

"Teacher training should be upgraded so they are equipped to deliver these learning techniques effectively. It is already a challenging profession so we must support the nation's teachers and empower them to help build tomorrow's workforce."

Businesses, too, need to adapt and give employees better access to training opportunities or risk losing top talent.

"Employers should be investing in learning and development programmes that incentivise everyone to develop a broader blend of skills. This blend must include a focus on complex reasoning, creativity and socio-emotional intelligence."

That means investing in ongoing e-learning and digital alternatives to broaden the training opportunities available.

"Retaining talent requires a flexible approach, in the form of more collaborative workspaces, new communications tools, agile teams and amended workplace and employment policies and procedures. We are already seeing positive movement in this space in New Zealand, but there's still traditional mindsets to conquer."