The post-COVID-19 landscape in both education and the workplace is already looking very different. Olga Triay, a 20-year-old student of International Business Economics at the University Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, assesses the positives and negatives of this changed world from the point of view of those affected the most: young generations.
The only thing that has been clear from the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it will be a turning point; the world will never again be that of the years before the health crisis – not at the economic level, nor at the social one.
A new kind of workplace
An important topic related to the pandemic are the new measures adopted by businesses and organisations, which will play a role in the labour market of the future.
Although online working was already possible before the pandemic, we have rediscovered the benefits of new technologies in the last few months. Many industries and sectors have realised the increase in efficiency and reduction in costs that online working can offer and, in my opinion, they will not let go such an opportunity.
I am not only talking about reduction in office space and facilities but also a reduction in shops as we know them, in schools and universities, etc.
The implications for young people: in the balance
The question is whether this change in the markets is favourable or not, and for whom. From my point of view, the coming generations will encounter both benefits and costs in the new landscape.
On the one hand, the fast development of technology fits perfectly the ability of young generations to adapt rapidly, which may give them an easier entrance to the labour market. Moreover, most of the time online working allows for less strict timetables and more flexibility in the workplace, two things that are heavily valued by a young labour force.
We should also consider the new labour opportunities that may emerge from this situation: there will be huge room for innovation and creativity, as well as many potential investors. Consider all high-technology sectors but also the development of new management techniques that adapt to the new environment, among others.
On the other hand, online working will generate a considerable reduction in the necessary labour force in any type of business, as well as the disappearance of many jobs. Therefore, competition to fill vacant positions will increase, requiring higher preparation of the candidates and further levels of specialisation. Nevertheless – and related to the second topic I want to assess – what will this suppose? How is the educational sector going to emerge from the pandemic?
Online education: missing something
The fact is that probably the reduction in costs of installations and personnel implied by not having to attend schools and universities in person does not cover the costs of the adaptation and implementation of technology needed to make the learning experience profitable.
Moreover, although the arguments about the flexibility and adaptability of young people still hold, students may not be as comfortable with online mechanisms as workers.
Online teaching does not always benefit from those advantages that face-to-face communication offers, and which are usually more important for young people. I am referring to social factors such as the reduced peer pressure or support, reduced empathy and sympathy with colleagues and professors, etc.
Features of a changed world
Some say that the lockdown has had positive effects in our perception of the world, that we will now value more everything we can enjoy, from social activities to our environment, and will not take anything for granted.
The reality is that we may encounter a social landscape which is very different to the one we know, thanks to the changes in the labour market and the educational system. The pandemic has brought developments that heavily affect very important aspects of our day routine, which are still uncertain but to which we will have to adapt as we go.
Therefore, the years following the pandemic will leave young generations with a difficult landscape in which adaptation and flexibility, academic preparation and differentiation will be more important than ever to fit into a labour market with completely changed industries and mechanisms.
This is, for the better or the worse, the challenge they will face. Still, it is far from clear how their support and patience to the cause during lockdown will be repaid.
Photo of Museu Blau, Barcelona, by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/@vidarnm
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