'The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn," wrote Alvin Toffler.
His predictions are coming true as the very nature of work is changing before our eyes. Technology is disrupting a wide range of professions and the workforce is likely to look very different by the time most workers today hang up their briefcases for the last time.
We could even find ourselves sending our avatars or holograms to the office instead of ourselves, says AUT professor Tim Bentley, who heads up AUT University's New Zealand Work Research Institute.
There is no reason, says Bentley, that he can't remain in New Zealand and send his hologram to stand in the lecture theatre overseas.
Some of the biggest changes to the workforce over the next 20 to 30 years, adds Bentley, include declining numbers of people in the workforce, greater ethnic diversity, technological disruption, a move to more flexible work arrangements and a need for greater resilience in the workforce.
By 2018 we are going to have serious workforce declines as more baby boomers retire, says Bentley. Maintaining economic growth rates in the face of changing labour supply is likely to prove a challenge for organisations.
If New Zealand wants to maintain GDP per capita growth it's likely to find itself more than 190,000 workers short by 2034, David Paterson, manager, labour market and business performance, at the Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment told AUT's inaugural Future of Work Conference.
Although we've already said goodbye to jobs for life, the workplace of the future is going to become even more flexible. Workers are likely to be judged on their output, not input (hours), says Bentley.
Few will work in large head offices. We're more likely as workers at Project Sunshine Coast do, to split our hours between the office, co-working centres and home. Auckland Council, which is also experimenting with flexible work arrangements, says about 30 per cent of employees in its CBD office no longer have an allocated desk.
One of the big changes in the future, says Bentley is that we have no idea what jobs people will have. That makes training decisions difficult. What if you do a five year degree for an industry that's about to become non-existent?
The linear education/work path we have followed in the past of a block of university learning followed by 40 years in the workforce is being disrupted, says Gayle Morris associate professor, director of learning and teaching at the Faculty of Business and Law, AUT University. Long periods of "learning and earning" aren't the way of the future.
Learning will be the currency of our work and will need to become an ongoing part of our lives, says Morris.
That won't always mean giving up work and going back to university to do a new degree. Degrees are being unbundled, says Morris. Stanford University, for example, is experimenting with an open loop model of education where instead of a student doing four years of study from age 18 to 22, being accepted to Stanford could mean students will be entitled to six years education at the university over a lifetime.
On a practical level, the employee of the future should be doing a good chunk of their professional development informally in the workplace, says Morris. "Work is one of the biggest areas for us to trawl for learning.
"People need to explore opportunities in the workplace.
"We can take responsibility for something to stretch us," she says. "Be the type of person that puts their hand up and says: 'I will give it a go'." She says "agency" - the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices - will become increasingly important in lifelong learning.
We'll become more interested in "credentialing" work-based skills, says Morris. The workers of the future will look for ways to gain credentials for skills developed in our existing roles. Universities such as Deakin in Melbourne are experimenting with evidence-based employability credentials such as badges or certificates based on prior learning and experience.
Also important in the future could be statements of accomplishment, verified certificates, and badges from massive open online courses (Moocs) and other continuing education courses. Moocs are online courses offered often for free by universities. Employers will increasingly value the credentials that come out of them.
Employees also need to take advantage of just-in-time training, which delivers training to workers when and where they need it, says Morris. That could be traditional professional development, online courses, short courses at university, or courses from new-style training organisations.
She also believes social media is another way to both manage and "advertise" our learning capacity.
It is noticeable, says Morris, that younger employees are the ones taking advantage of these new-style learning opportunities that will keep them employable in the future.
• Learning will become the currency of work.
• We could send our avatars to work.
• Informal training could earn badges.
• University learning may be based on working experience.