Are Today’s Students Ready for Possible Future of Work Contexts? What We Learn from Marika

Topics: Future of Learning

Guest post by Kimberly Daniels

In The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out, KnowledgeWorks explored how two key drivers of change, the rise of smart machines and the decline of the full-time employee, could reshape work in 2040. Four scenarios illustrate how two critical uncertainties related to how these drivers of change and people’s responses to them could impact readiness for further learning, work and life. The scenarios also illuminate the kinds of supports that could be available to young people and adults for future success.

This blog post is the seventh in a series that examines the readiness attributes demonstrated by eight fictional personas who portray what success could look like. It is designed to get readers thinking about the knowledge, skills and dispositions people may need or want to develop in order to be ready for future work contexts, however the current uncertainties unfold. This post is about the fictional persona, Marika.

This story of the fictional personal Marika raises important questions about what people might need to know and be able to do today in order to be ready for a possible future work context that is similar to the scenario that she inhabits.Marika’s work context in 2040 is characterized by the high technological displacement of human workers and by market-driven adaptation to the changing employment landscape. In this context, most people bear responsibility for navigating a strongly competitive landscape on their own, often struggling to piece together highly fragmented, short-term taskified work that is administered through dispatching platforms. They work platform performance ratings to their advantage in order to secure jobs. Those able to perform highly specialized work compete for the few existing full-time job opportunities. Among those working the platforms to access task-based work, some people compete globally for middle-skill jobs that involve professional and knowledge work, while others compete locally for low-skill jobs that involve personal service, physical labor, and administrative tasks. In addition, a number of people use dispatching platforms to help manage small business enterprises. In this employment landscape, postsecondary education is a luxury; income is driven by high platform performance scores rather than by postsecondary degree attainment.

As a super tasker, Marika started a virtual reality design company, which she manages on multiple reputable platforms that match local and international clients with workers capable of carrying out desired tasks. Having lost a number of bids to competitors during her initial years of working the platforms, Marika attended a social networking event and sought tips from other attendees on how to navigate and succeed at platform-based work. Over time, she developed a highly valued, in-demand design specialty that increased her success rate in winning bids. Now, Marika has a platform reputation for demonstrating calmness under pressure, meeting deadlines and effectively managing ambiguity.

For Marika, readiness for the successful navigation of highly fragmented, task-oriented work can be attributed to a tenacious pursuit of learning via non-traditional pathways. She learned basic business skills by enrolling at an open virtual academy. She learned about personal branding through online tutorials. She also learned from peers how to use software-coding bots to improve her work and how to use data analytic tools to strengthen her personal brand. Now, Marika gives back and bolsters her social connections by sharing her skills with and mentoring others.


This story of the fictional personal Marika raises important questions about what people might need to know and be able to do today in order to be ready for a possible future work context that is similar to the scenario that she inhabits. It also raises questions as to how today’s K-12 and postsecondary education institutions and employers might respond. The questions below provide a starting point for reflection.

Reflection Questions for Educators

  • How might traditional education institutions and new kinds of learning providers work together to ensure that learners develop skills and competencies that are aligned with the fluid nature of platform-based work?
  • How might the current increase in free access to courses and other educational material impact traditional education institutions and learning models in the future?
  • How might learning communities leverage social networking events and online platforms or employ other strategies to help support learners in improving their communication, connectivity and collaboration skills and in cultivating their personal brands?

Reflection Questions for Employers

  • How might employee recruitment benefit from, or be limited by, increasingly quantified screening tools?
  • How might the increased use of data analytics to monitor and evaluate workers help develop or threaten their emotional resiliency?

In The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out, you can read more about career readiness considerations for today’s students.