Music Education: future of automation

Last year, PWC released a report saying by the year 2030, robot automation will have replaced 800 million jobs. The report has suggested that in richer nations like the USA and Germany, up to one third of the workforce will have to retrain.

While it surely comes as no surprise that technology is shifting the skills required in the world of work, the speed and scale of this change will be startling for most. What is clear is that action to prepare for this transition is urgently needed.

Another thing pertinent about the year 2030, is it will be the year that children who've started primary school this year will be turning 16. From this age onwards they will be making decisions on their future career and life path. This means the impact primary education has on young people today will have to influence how they are able to react to this changing job market in their future years.

The Effect of Automation in the Job Market

In terms of what sectors will be impacted, it is expected that virtually every industry will be influenced on some level by artificial intelligence (some much greater than others). Taxis will be without drivers in autonomous cars and many marketing and support roles will be replaced by online bots.

A friend of mine recently told me about how the tech company he works for are embracing the pursuit of automation. The company decided to launch an internal competition offering a sizeable amount of money to any employee’s initiative that could automate a proportion of the company’s processes. The subtext of this, as he saw it, was, ‘how can we reduce our investment in jobs by getting robots to do more of the stuff for us’.

This is just one example, but what this indicates for education is that the young people in school now will need to be able to evidence their ability to think imaginatively for any future prospective employers. In time, it’s perceivable that many qualifications will become secondary in importance to this demonstrable level of creativity.

Learning Music can be the Differentiator

For a long time in schools, governments have been pushing the agenda of the STEM subjects and understandably so. Great innovation and new economic doors have been opened by the promotion of these disciplines. But now there is an increasing focus on this acronym being reworked as STEAM with the A included for the arts.

The reason for this is that music and other arts subjects like drama and visual arts, can provide this outlet for children to develop their creative skills. No longer can they be treated as a fluffy ‘nice-to-have’ but something instead that provides real intrinsic value and fulfilment for children in schools.

Take for instance the primary music curriculum here in Ireland. This program for learning music can be broken down into three core strands: listening, performance and composition.

In the first part, when a child is listening to music they are developing their own opinions about a piece and able to draw inspiration from the work that others have produced. Following this is performance; a child can then present their own ideas and interpretation of a piece of music. Finally, through composition, the student can take what they’ve learnt from others and apply it into a completely new creation.

The skills developed from these three strands, particularly when learned at an early age, can become those transferable proficiencies that young people not only need for the job market but also as they seek solutions to challenges they’ll face in all areas of their lives.

How ironic that even with this rate of technological development, it’s the pursuit of things like music, which has never fundamentally changed, that still gives us humans the finesse no robot could ever replicate.

What do you think are the key ways music impacts young people? Let us know in the comments below.