The world of yesterday is no longer the world youth are heading into. This era is characterized by rapid advancements in technology and today’s youth are at the forefront of the revolution. So much has changed emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. Even nearly three years later, we are still witnessing the lasting implications of the crisis. Whether that be through an influx of digital meetings and events, to in-person interaction, the world is changing, and so are we. Young brains are actively reinventing conventional paradigms and redefining the future of education, the workplace, and the economy as a whole.
Adapting to a New Work Rhythm
Three years ago, the whole world had shut down. Consumer inflation was at a 30-year high and prices soared (Statistics Canada, 2023). Students, who typically weren't confined to their homes for longer than summer break, spent nearly a year glued behind a screen to attend school. Teachers found themselves trying to connect with students through a digital portal rather than face-to-face.
With this new change in the education landscape came adaptation from the student population. The newfound independence and flexibility led students to explore the advent of online resources, personalized learning software and more notoriously, artificial intelligence, to aid their learning. Students could now more effectively tailor their own learning and supplement areas they saw fit. Some students used these online resources to get ahead of the normal curve and develop their skills.
Fueled by educational institutions, a market of enthusiastic students, and a rise in the use of smart devices around the world, the market for online education has expanded accordingly. The estimated global market for online education is expected to expand between 8% and 13% annually, from $222 billion in 2020 to over $350 billion come 2025 (Statistics Canada, 2022). This trend has leaked into the job sector as well, with digital literacy becoming a foundational skill in many workplaces.
In an interview with BBC, Ying Zhou, the director of the Future of Work Research Centre at the University of Surrey said:
"Every time technology is developed it pushes up the workforce’s skill requirements. It becomes a race between digital skills and technology: the faster it advances, the quicker we have to update our skills. The bar is being raised all the time." (Christian, 2022)
Essentially, to stay competitive in your workplace, you must be constantly updating your digital skillset. Fortunately, though, most students are already doing this, but how exactly is this ripple affecting the pool that is our economy?
With the change in learning and work styles comes new priorities that mark a genesis in the technological era. There are new industries wholly built off of the digital realm, where negotiations, transactions and goods alike are all anchored in 0s and 1s.
The pandemic led to companies discovering that some of the operational load could be offset to online domains without much issue. Consequently, many companies have made some of their operations remote or hybrid to cut costs and increase accessibility. Companies discovered that some of the operational load could be offset to online domains without much issue. Meetings, conferences, orientations, courses and more can be easily hosted online.
On an individual scale, the effects of the digital job sector are conspicuous. Working from home has spiked in popularity with 98% of workers wanting to have remote work as an option (Haan, 2023). On-site work though is far from obsolete with 93% of employers planning to continue conducting job interviews remotely.
Another interesting consequence of the digital era is the rise in youth-led organizations. This phenomenon can be attributed to a variety of factors, including the dwindling availability of traditional employment, leadership and volunteer opportunities during the pandemic and the newfound surplus of time that many students have had on their hands (Zhi, 2020). Regardless of the driving force behind their creation, there has been a rise in youth-led groups appearing on the scene. However, a concerning trend has developed with this expansion: many of these efforts become dormant and fade out a few months after launch.
It is worth noting that many of these youth-led groups share a similar goal, which typically aligns with the "By Youth, For Youth." concept (Zhi, 2020). This similarity raises several significant questions. Why do so many of these organizations struggle to be relevant and long-lived? What elements play a role in their eventual inactivity? What inspires young people to start on the difficult route of launching a new initiative from scratch? Investigating the motivations and dynamics of these young-led groups can give important insights into the changing landscape of youth involvement, innovation and our economy.
Imagine this digital era as a pebble dropped into the pond of tradition, its ripples of change touching every facet of our lives. We're at the heart of an exciting transformation where objectives evolve, work dynamics shift, and initiatives rise. Remote operations, virtual job interviews and hybrid work models add to the whirlwind. These shifts reflect our resilience during the pandemic and signal a future where technology and human creativity fuse to reshape community interaction. But how exactly will these ripples be felt in the future and sculpt the economy and society?
Effects on The Economy
The COVID-19 pandemic has unquestionably altered our lives in several ways. One of the most significant developments was the widespread acceptance of remote and hybrid forms of education and work. While the change to online learning initially responded to the healthcare crisis, its economic consequences have been profound and transformative.
Traditional brick-and-mortar retail, for example, has faced stiff competition from e-commerce giants such as Amazon. This has resulted in the bankruptcy of large retail brands such as Sears and more recently, Nordstrom (Vega, 2023), as online shopping continues to dominate. Furthermore, several manufacturing sectors have experienced substantial automation, such as the use of robotics in vehicle manufacture, resulting in a decline in job prospects.
The critical problem of data privacy and cybersecurity looms larger than ever in this era of ever-expanding digital activities. As organizations rely more on digital infrastructure, the prospect of data breaches and leaks arises as a serious hazard. This is capable of causing significant financial losses and ruining hard-earned reputations. The consequences of such attacks can be seen in the 2021 cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline, a disruptive event affecting the East Coast of the United States by interrupting petroleum supply and revealing weaknesses in key infrastructure (Kerner, 2022). This terrifying incident served as a harsh reminder of the critical need for increased cybersecurity expenditures, not just to protect companies but also to ensure the stability of our economies in an increasingly linked and digital world. As a result, the need to invest in cybersecurity experts and more safety measures has skyrocketed.
Across industries, the digital revolution has resulted in significant increases in productivity and cost efficiency. Automation, data analytics, and cloud computing have all become essential components of operations, allowing for better resource allocation and decision-making. Amazon's intentional adoption of robotics in its fulfilment centres, for example, has not only increased productivity but also resulted in significant labour cost reductions and better order accuracy, backing the e-commerce giant's excellent financial success (Knight, 2023).
Simultaneously, the digital era has given rise to the burgeoning gig economy, in which individuals participate in short-term contracts or freelance employment, which is frequently enabled through online platforms (Upwork, 2023). Remote work enables businesses to access a global talent pool while reducing their reliance on physical office premises. Sites like Upwork and Freelancer connect freelancers with specific talents with businesses looking for their knowledge, broadening the gig economy's reach and changing traditional concepts of labour.
Ultimately, the ripple effect is spread across diverse facets of our lives in this digital era, leaving an everlasting impact on our futures. We are at the core of an exciting revolution, traversing ever-changing terrains in education, jobs, and the economy. The COVID-19 epidemic, acting as a catalyst, has led to the rapid adoption of remote and hybrid models in education and employment, with far-reaching economic consequences. As we reshape our dreams, redefine the job sector, and embrace both the opportunities and challenges presented by the digital era, it is critical that we not only adapt but also gain a thorough understanding of how these waves of change will alter our economic and societal landscapes in the long run.
Christian, Alex. “Why 'digital literacy' is now a workplace non-negotiable.” BBC, 27 September 2022, https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20220923-why-digital-literacy-is-now-a-workplace-non-negotiable. Accessed 6 October 2023.
Contant, Jason. “4 reasons why remote work is here to stay.” Canadian Underwriter, 7 September 2023, https://www.canadianunderwriter.ca/employment/4-reasons-why-remote-work-is-here-to-stay-1004237404/. Accessed 28 September 2023.
“COVID-19 in Canada: A Two-year Update on Social and Economic Impacts.” Statistics Canada, 10 March 2022, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-631-x/11-631-x2022001-eng.htm. Accessed 20 September 2023.
“Ecommerce Insights for 2021.” FlippingBook, 21 September 23, https://flippingbook.com/fr/blog/marketing-tips/trends-shaping-the-ecommerce-future. Accessed 1 October 2023.
“The economic impact of COVID-19 on Canada's international education sector in 2020.” Global Affairs Canada, 22 September 2022, https://www.international.gc.ca/education/report-rapport/covid19-impact/index.aspx?lang=eng. Accessed 20 September 2023.
“Government of Canada announces funding for training to help thousands of Canadians get online.” Canada.ca, 13 March 2023, https://www.canada.ca/en/innovation-science-economic-development/news/2023/02/government-of-canada-announces-funding-for-training-to-help-thousands-of-canadians-get-online.html. Accessed 28 September 2023.
Haan, Kathy. “Remote Work Statistics & Trends In (2023) – Forbes Advisor.” Forbes, 12 June 2023, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/business/remote-work-statistics/. Accessed 28 September 2023.
Kerner, Sean Michael. “Colonial Pipeline hack explained: Everything you need to know.” TechTarget, 26 April 2022, https://www.techtarget.com/whatis/feature/Colonial-Pipeline-hack-explained-Everything-you-need-to-know. Accessed 1 October 2023.
Knight, Will. “Amazon's New Robots Are Rolling Out an Automation Revolution.” WIRED, 26 June 2023, https://www.wired.com/story/amazons-new-robots-automation-revolution/. Accessed 1 October 2023.
Riehl, Alex. “Three tech companies hiring remote workers in Canada.” BetaKit, 9 June 2023, https://betakit.com/three-tech-companies-hiring-remote-workers-in-canada/. Accessed 28 September 2023.
Upwork. “What Is the Gig Economy? Definition and Considerations.” Upwork, 12 September 2023, https://www.upwork.com/resources/what-is-the-gig-economy. Accessed 1 October 2023.
Vega, Manuela. “Nordstrom Canada closing all remaining stores after Tuesday.” Toronto Star, 13 June 2023, https://www.thestar.com/business/now-or-never-tuesday-is-nordstrom-s-last-day-in-canada-a-timeline-of-its/article_013564ec-a908-5915-951a-3f122d7bcdbb.html. Accessed 1 October 2023.
Zhi, Vivian. YouTube, 30 August 2022, https://fcssfesc.medium.com/the-rise-of-youth-led-organizations-during-the-pandemic-c92835a243. Accessed 30 September 2023.