The world has seen a profound transformation of economies over the past 200-250 years, from agricultural to industrial models. Many of those economies have continued to evolve into post-industrial knowledge economies. In such economies, productivity no longer depends on unskilled labor, but on knowledge-workers, whose primary skills are thinking and manipulating information. That shift has led to changes in the demand for skills in the workforce. Continuous learning is a necessity to remain relevant in a rapidly transforming labor market. At the same time, economies have been restructured by the forces of global trade.
To remain competitive, and to give low- and high-skilled workers alike the best chance of success, economies need to offer training and career-focused education throughout people’s working lives.
— The Economist
Economic transformation has been enabled by rapid technological change that has also had a significant impact on communication and individual behavior. The economic and technological changes were accompanied by significant cultural and social change. As the world becomes more integrated and interdependent, we find increased lifestyle diversity and cultural pluralism (culturally distinct groups living together). Humans are living longer than ever, which is challenging the traditional education-work-retirement pattern of life stages.
In 1975, Paul Lengrand PL Paul Lengrand wrote that in addition to the challenges that people have always faced such as wars, illness, death (among many others), several new challenges have emerged since the beginning of the 20th century. Over 40 years later, his list of challenges remains relevant:
- Acceleration of change: people need agility and adaptability to cope with the accelerated pace of innovation and change
- Demographic expansion: Population growth and extended lifespans
- Evolution of scientific knowledge and technology: the speed with which technology evolves means people must continually learn or risk unemployment
- Political challenge: Although the political challenges of today are different, they are no less challenging.
- Information: Then the emergence of mass media was transforming communication, just as the internet and social media are transforming it today.
- Leisure: An increase in leisure time enable self-fulfillment outside of work and family life.
- Patterns of life and relationships: the cultures and customs that provide guidelines for the behavior of individuals in their interpersonal relationships are also continually evolving.
- Body: We should not neglect biology, physical expression, and sexuality.
- Ideologies: Ideologies of religious and economic nature continue to clash (e.g. trade wars, terrorism).