Future-Proofing

John Watters, Executive Officer – AusSIP

In the last few months I have been renovating my house. Like many keen home renovators, I have searched the Internet, spoken with friends and colleagues and utilised a variety of media to find as many hints and challenges people have encountered along the way. My theory has been to undertake this task once, as I’ll probably be too old and cranky in the future to do this again.

One of the most interesting concepts I have found various blogs outline, is the concept of ‘future-proofing’. Essentially, this involves incorporating infrastructure building concepts into the renovation process. This could include additional power points, coaxial and data outlets and laying additional conduit. The premise behind such installations is that these will make future additions and upgrades to the house easier in the future and somehow limit any negative impacts.

When I enthusiastically read through such ideas, I started to question the validity of many arguments. Whilst I can understand and appreciate the need to try and do as much to the house with a long-term perspective, I wondered if the original builders had the same philosophy and to what extent I could actually ‘future-proof’ the house.

If your house is like mine, being twenty or so years old, I would suggest that each room has about one to two power-points, perhaps one or two television outlets in the whole house and little to no wall insulation. At the time when the house was built, there were no additional needs. Most homes had about one to two televisions, one central light in each room, air conditioning was a luxury and electronic devices were limited to one computer, a hair-dryer and perhaps a gaming device. There is no way that most people could ever foresee the proliferation of home needs and devices. The question is, how accurately can we ‘future-proof’ our houses.

Such questions and my folly in believing I could somehow ‘future-proof’ my house, reminded me of the same challenge of education and employment. Everyone agrees that a good education is essential and we all want our kids to be well-educated. We send our kids to the best possible schools, often requiring us to make sacrifices to pay for this education and even in some cases move our families to different suburbs. We re-tell stories of what we should have done and try to advise our young to learn from our mistakes and take every opportunity as it arises. In essence, we are trying to future-proof our children.

The underlying queries I have with education, as I do with my house, is what do we understand by the terms ‘quality’ and ‘good’? Is ‘education’ defined by the well-established time of schooling years plus post education? If we are future-proofing our young, what does the future look like?

For myself, education should be framed more in a ‘learning space concept’. Terms such as formal and informal education are describing learning. From a neuroscience perspective, learning occurs all the time and we are constantly making new neuron connections whether we are in education or not. Furthermore, the concepts that we are only utilising certain percentages of our brain and that we can only learn skills at certain ages, are nonsensical. Learning is continuous, accumulative and lifelong. Learning helps to future-proof us; ‘traditional education’ concepts segment our lives.

For many, YouTube is one of the greatest learning tools. If you’ve ever wondered how you could do some DIY work, the search ‘how to…’ is one of the most powerful learning experiences. When I needed to render small sections of my house, I didn’t need to spend several years studying and honing my skills, nor did I need to learn the structural integrity of civil structures; I needed about half an hour of watching videos, patience and several practice attempts to get it right. How would this learning be described? Formal, informal, on-the-job, experiential, or a mixture of all? Will I be able to make serious alterations to my house; probably not. Will I have to learn additional skills in the future? Absolutely! The point is, my experience and skills I have learned along the way increase my chances of undertaking such work in the future and searching for a solution.

A qualification, trade or degree is not a destination in itself, but rather a vehicle that assists at that point in time. Like most vehicles, we need to upgrade and at least maintain them to retain value and keep us moving. We rarely buy vehicles believing that they will last a lifetime; we shouldn’t think that our last renovation is our last. The future is unknown and the best we can do is prepare ourselves for being in that unknown space when we are. About forty per cent of all current jobs didn’t exist six years ago. The currency of degrees are decreasing at a rate that has not been experienced. Trades are becoming multi-disciplinary and requiring increasing CPD experiences. Education alone won’t future-proof our careers and kids, however, learning is a stronger and more sustainable proposition.

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