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The future of work as explored in the Work Zone


Manpower, the sponsors of the Millennium Work Zone, envisage a world in which the visitor acquires new skills in teamwork, problem-solving, communication, dexterity, co-ordination and IT. Just because we’ve heard the message so many times before, does not mean that we should let it pass by again, but does this expansive exhibit in the Dome achieve a more engaging result?

The exterior of the Work Zone is certainly impressive. An enormous two-storey high wall displays a huge series of changing pictures of the workplace – factory, library, landscape; it’s an arresting sight which draws you into the exhibit. Inside there is a four phase development from the old world of routine work, to the ‘new economy workplace’ with areas devoted to the implications for skills and training. The ‘old world’ was depicted very traditionally – many companies have already moved along way beyond these stereotypes. The ‘new world’ displayed the use of new technology in Palm-style gadgets, but why was there so little inter-activity for such an electronic display?

The panels around the wall were helpful in summarising the trends we are all facing at work: people work 100,000 hours in a lifetime, 15% will be self-employed within 7 years; 32% will be part-time within 7 years; two-thirds of jobs created in the 1990’s needed new skills; the 20th century was focused on work and the 21st century will be focused on leisure. Relevant points, but poorly displayed: in a high-tech age, few people were bothering to read these panels which fundamentally affect the future of their work.

The large hall with a series of games designed to enhance the key skills of the future does at last introduce the interactive element to the Zone. Here are the key skills familiar to any secondary teacher grappling with the new curriculum; but I wonder how many of the tens of thousands of pupils passing through and playing with the table football or the touchpad screens actually made the connection. This hall is the final part of the Zone and the games will probably be the abiding memory for many of the visitors. A shame really, because the sponsors are trying to make an important point. Still, my conversation with the 1950’s role character in his trench coat and ‘it’s all beyond me’ attitude was certainly entertaining.


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