Today's parents, when thinking about their teens' future careers, would do well to heed the advice of two modern geniuses; albeit their individual brilliance comes in disparate areas: Wayne Gretzky and Bill Gates.
The hockey legend once said, "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been." And the computer nerd billionaire observed, "We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10. Don't let yourself be lulled into inaction."
Believe me, the world will look incredibly different in 2023 than it does today and if your children want to be successful and gainfully employed, they've got to head to where the jobs will be, not where their parent's generation worked.
Change is constant and its speed is picking up.
Just look at that phone you carry and think back 10 years to 2003. Today, your phone is no longer simply a phone that, in the historical sense, connects you to another person. Sure, in 2003 you could talk and text and even email on your phone. But compare it to today: your phone allows you to download any app imaginable, watch live television, browse the Internet, connect to thousands of people at a time via social media, remotely increase your home's heat or set your security alarm, monitor your health, play Candy Crush or almost anything else.
It's no longer a phone in the traditional sense, but a connected computer that happens to fit in your pocket.
And the phone is simply one piece of technology rapidly evolving. Which brings us to 3-D printing. The buzz around 3-D printing is that these $1,500 machines are going to transform manufacturing. But the reality is that the big expensive 3-D printers costing upwards of $1 million and used by NASA, General Electric, Boeing and other giants are having impact today when it comes to building turbines, airplanes and more. Not the inexpensive consumer models.
Today's $1,500 3-D printers simply don't produce items at a high enough quality to disrupt manufacturing in the near term... not yet anyway. But we're already seeing signs of 3-D printer evolution.
For example, NASA just announced it is going to launch a 3-D printer into space in 2014 for testing purposes. The moderately-priced toaster-sized printer could be a game changer for space travel because it could greatly reduce the need for astronauts to load up with every tool, spare part or supply they might ever need. NASA says 3-D printers could have solved the problems of the crippled Apollo 13 mission in mere minutes back in 1970. Instead of the famous "Houston, we have a problem" line, a 3-D printer could have changed that to "Houston, we've already solved our problem."
Remember what Bill Gates said about underestimating impact in the long term. 3-D printing will continue to evolve and inexpensive machines will produce high-quality, intricate products in 2023 or before and there will be entrepreneurs who will be creating new industries and new jobs based on this. Related skills to develop, market and deliver these new products in a 3-D printing world will be needed.
If we want to teach our kids to go where the jobs will be, we've got to point them beyond their gaming devices and towards engaging interactive experiences like playing with 3-D printers and coming up with new products and new ideas.
At $1,500, not every Canadian family can afford to go out and buy a 3-D printer, but many can. And those that can't might consider borrowing one from the Toronto Tool Library beginning Oct. 15.
And that also brings us to robots. The forward-thinking kids today are playing with robots like we played with Lego. They're building robots and coming up with new ideas for uses. Interesting and engaging robotics kits can start in the hundreds of dollars range and go up from there. Some kids are even building robots from scratch using their 3D Printers.
Ten years ago did you think a car could park itself, or a dentist could 3-D print a ceramic crown while you're in the chair, or that you could see and talk to the person on the other end of the call? We also didn't think that the hottest jobs advertised today would include big data analyst, online community manager and SEO specialist.
Don't underestimate the change that will occur by the time your kids move into the workforce.