This paper places the competencies to be measured by the OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) in the context of the technological developments which are reshaping the nature of the workplace and work in the 21st century. The largest technological force currently shaping work is the computer. Computers are faster and less expensive than people in performing some workplace tasks and much weaker than people in performing other tasks. On the basis of an understanding of the kinds of work computers do well, it is possible to describe the work that will remain for people in the future, the skills that work requires and the way that computers can assist people in performing that work. The paper argues that a technology-rich workplace requires foundational skills including numeracy and literacy (both to be tested in PIAAC), advanced problem-solving skills or Expert Thinking (similar to the construct of Problem Solving in Technology-Rich Environments to be tested in PIAAC) and advanced communication skills or Complex Communication (not being tested in PIAAC).
March 14, 2010