Degree of preparation needed for jobs market
The robots are coming to take a job near you soon. This was one of the final predictions from outgoing US president Barack Obama who talked about the "relentless pace of automation that will make many jobs obsolete".
Today's school leavers need a good degree of preparation for this rapidly changing world. They will live longer than their parents and will have to learn to adapt to disruptive changes in work patterns. A new report from McKinsey estimates that half of all the tasks people currently perform at work could be automated through technology.
The only question is when, rather than if, it will happen. And it won't just be the blue collar jobs that will be lost - the kind of jobs that Trump is trying to bring back to the Rust Belt states in America. Technology will destroy many of those working class jobs but will also wipe out large numbers of legal and accountancy jobs in America and everywhere else - the very jobs that tend to be the preserve of the educated classes.
But like its predecessors, this Fourth Industrial Revolution will also create new kinds of jobs, many of them unimaginable at this relatively early stage of transformation in the employment market. To survive and thrive in this brave and slightly frightening new world of jobs you will need two things - a qualification and the ability to keep learning.
As The Economist put it recently: "Today, robotics and artificial intelligence call for another education revolution. This time, however, working lives are so lengthy and so fast-changing that simply cramming more schooling in at the start is not enough. People must also be able to acquire new skills throughout their career."
A further or higher education qualification can provide a good basis for lifelong learning. OECD studies have shown that Irish graduates in particular earn significantly more over their lifetime than those who finish their education at secondary school level. They also tend to live longer and have healthier lives. Increasingly though, they will have to use some of that time to catch up and acquire new skills.
Nowadays nine out of 10 students are staying in the education system after they finish secondary school. The numbers applying to the Central Applications Office for college admissions keep rising. And, as our tables today show, more and more schools are sending all of their students to universities, institutes of technology or other higher education institutions.
Other opportunities are opening up. On Thursday, Education Minister Richard Bruton and Skills Minister John Halligan launched the Government's plan to expand apprenticeships and traineeships. The very ambitious aim is to deliver 50,000 registrations by 2020.
There are currently 27 apprenticeships in Ireland, in areas such as construction, engineering and the motor sector. Other countries have a much broader tradition of apprenticeship.
Germany has over 300 apprenticeships across a wide range of sectors.
Under the Government's 'earn and learn' plan apprentices and trainees will be embedded in enterprises and will get the chance to learn skills and get hands-on experience. It will give young people the opportunity to acquire applied, technical skills within a variety of sectors, and provide a very practical grounding which will stand to them as they move through their career and take advantage of promotional opportunities. Some of the new apprenticeship programmes will lead to degrees, eroding the often artificial divide between education and training, which is to be welcomed.
Secondary school leavers face a myriad of choices. The ones they make in their Leaving Certificate year could define the rest of their lives so it's worthwhile putting some thought into it. The best advice is still to follow your heart and go where your interests lie.