Ladies at Lunch – are we ready for what the future holds?

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Over a delicious meal at Tauranga’s newest restaurant, Viet De Cuisine, our Ladies at Lunch deliberated over whether we’re ready for what the future holds – Artificial Intelligence, the future of work and preparing our workforce. Is AI a good thing or a bad thing? There’s definitely a disturbing side to it but, as many of the ladies attest, AI has brought about many positive things that are already having a constructive impact on our lives. I felt comforted hearing that the next generation, for the most part, is concerned about the future of our planet and are very aware of what’s going on.

Our hosts were ASB Commercial Relationship Manager Sharon Orlowski and ASB Private Banking Manager Diane Hansen. They were joined by Denise Arnold (Director, Lyon O’Neale Arnold/Cambodia Charitable Trust), Heidi Moller (Practice Manager, Skinspots/ High Hopes Haven Charitable Trust), Wendy Robertson (Event Support Manager, New ZealandBlue Light Ventures/ Co-Founder Ladies Charity Lunch), Helen Barnard (MD Barnard Property Management,Community Care for Waipuna Hospice).

There has been a lot of talk about the future of work and how AI will soon take over many of our jobs. What’s your view on that? Does it concern you?

Sharon: I don’t think it will ever fully take over. I read a report recently that in 60% of jobs, 30% of tasks could be done by AI. A lot of the positions are still there, they have just evolved so that people are doing different things. I think it’s going to present both opportunities and challenges.Wendy: And stressors too; I look at what my teenage son is going through. We went to a careers expo and he was tryingto figure out what jobs would have a long-term future andnot be superseded by AI. Growing up, we never had to think about those things.

Diane: Other jobs are being created. We might shop online but now we need to employ somebody to pack and deliver our groceries. It’s just a redirection.

Sharon: There’s obviously the social and cultural aspect of interactions that AI will never replace.

Wendy: We’ll always need people but particularly in thesector we work in, AI is definitely changing the way wework, for example, with fundraising, gone are the days of ‘shaking the bucket’ because people don’t have cash on them. We’re now looking at a ‘tap and go’ system for donations.

Denise: Without realising it, we’re already enjoying thebenefits of AI. Netflix already channels us as it ‘knows’what we’re looking for, and it’s helpful. So I think we already have a lot of opportunities and advantages as a result.

The challenge for us is to educate the next generation; for government and education institutions to adapt their training so they’re not producing people that won’t be able to get a job. The problem is trying to anticipate where that is going to land in the next ten or 20 years for the next generation – the jobs haven’t been created yet. To educate children for what might be requires educators to teach critical thinking, analysis, problem solving, being good citizens and those attributes that go beyond Pythagorean theorem.

Heidi: The challenge is keeping our values. The new generation are not as social; they don’t have that same connection that we used to have. There’s no face-to-face contact anymore.

Denise: There’s certainly a component of that but I come across a lot of younger people who are really socially engaged and very worried about the future – you know, the plastic bags, the ocean, climate change and I think there’s a bit of a divide where you have some that are not engaged and others who are far more engaged and I sometimes think if I had got started at their age, what could I have achieved. So, I see both.

Wendy: We recently went to the New Zealand Youth Awards at the Beehive and we were blown away by the innovations from these young people. You don’t often hear about this.

Denise: My kids took me on a beach clean-up when I visited them in Wellington. We were picking up syringes and all sorts of stuff … it was overwhelming and I made the mistake of saying this is hopeless. They said, ‘Mum you can’t say that; this is our future’. You can’t give up and they have that feeling now that you can’t rest.

To what extent do you feel women are supported to learn new skills in their workplace? Are there enough opportunities for professional development?

Denise: In law there is continued CPD that’s compulsory. Our PD sessions are open to anybody as we want to lift the standard across the board and support staff to attend, if it’s of interest to them. We’ve tried to encourage people to look ahead and decide that they would like to take on something different.

Diane: It’s really up to the individual; you can take yourself as far as you want to. It depends on your strengths and what you enjoy doing – for me, I thrive on it.

Sharon: Women often have their own limiting beliefs that hold us back and we think we have to have 90-100% of skills before we put ourselves forward.

Heidi: We’re a private clinic and encourage continued medical education(CME). We have CMEs and staff meetingsevery month where we brainstorm and encourage our nurses to qualify to do a lot of things that doctors do. Nothing stops anybody.

Helen: There are six of us in my business, all women, and it works. I don’t have a big budget to do ongoing workshops but once or twice a year they each choose a Chamber of Commerce course. Three of my staff are younger women and I like to spend a lot of time with them, sharing what has worked for me in the business. Our meetings start with gratitude; we have a caring and nurturing environment. I’m a big believer in this.

Wendy: I think that what Sharon said about our limiting beliefs is one reason I haven’t done as much personal development as I would like to have. I’m part-way through a post-grad degree and that all comes back to guilt. I have to have time to do my job and then all this time for study is in my outside work time and then I feel guilty about not having that time with my children so I pulled out of that. Nobody in the industry is stopping me; it’s that mother’s conscience that I should be at the sport’s game or helping with the homework assignment.

Are we doing enough as a region to prepare for the future and upskill our workforce?

Wendy: Yes, if you look at the growth of the Polytech and the Waikato Uni campus. The prospects in the region for young people are looking amazing.

Heidi: We seem to be losing a lot of our workforce overseas. We need to encourage them to stay. It’s our labour and our medicalfield that we’re losing. We’re losing our GPs,all the younger ones are going overseas andthe older ones are retiring in the next fiveyears. We have a big problem there.

Diane: We need to celebrate the region is growing. Sometimes we associate the region’s growth with negatives – housing,traffic, infrastructure. Let’s celebrate the growth of the city; everything we have to offer and that it’s bringing more jobs and opportunities for young people. Unfortunately, our growth seems to be more focused on the negative which discourages people from moving here.

Helen: I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. We’ve got so much here – the temperate climate, the beach, the bush.

Denise: With education, I think it’s been healthy to move away from the National Standards and to have the teachers not work on assessment criteria but rather developing a more holistic approach for the education of the next generation. The measure of a good educational system is producing good citizens who are thinkers, problem solvers, and kind, empathetic people.