MAXX Potential

Takeaways from SXSW EDU

Accidental acceleration; Learning / working in the Metaverse; Soft durable power; Texas BBQ

By Rob Simms


With SXSW EDU a wrap we share some of the good stuff we walked away with including: something positive out of the pandemic, the future of technology and work, and the most essential skills necessary to succeed in that future. Of course, we also talk about our new favorite Texas BBQ.

Accidental acceleration

Up first is a remark from one of the last sessions called “Reimagining the Learn-to-Work Ecosystem” where Monique Umphrey observed that the acceleration of technology use (in schools and in workplaces) caused by the pandemic is “…the unique opportunity of our time.” With more than $40 billion in HEERF funds and $122 billion in ESSER funds deployed by the federal government over the last 2 years, she isn’t kidding. 

For example, US K-12 public schools went from roughly two-thirds of students having a dedicated digital device to more than 90%. That technology, when used well, can be a powerful accelerator even if it was “by accident”. Think of the ability of students to learn-by-doing in areas of software development, data analytics and cybersecurity – much of which can be learned via resources freely available online. Before 2020, only the students fortunate to be in the right schools had that opportunity. Now over 13 million more students have the basic tools to access a career pathway in IT. Put more simply in another late session: two years of Covid-19 pushed education and work forward by 10 years.

How does this play out for the kids? How about the more than 36 million cybersecurity jobs alone coming online in the next decade? Now add to that 72% of CEO’s surveyed by PwC worried about workforce skill gaps today. The opportunity for current students is clear.

Learning and working in the Metaverse

The convergence of 3D virtual worlds, blockchain and NFT’s in what is widely regarded as the “Metaverse” or “Web 3.0” were topics in some more sessions on the last day. Think of students experiencing heretofore impossible scenarios like walking around a volcano or on the deck of a Viking ship. At the same time workers will be able to “do” physical tasks virtually and safely in a training environment before taking it to “IRL”. We can imagine that training through immersive simulations will soon be coming to the classroom. What if your 4th period was an “internship” working in the IT department at a company which exists only in the Metaverse?

Web 3.0 pundits say it will also be a place where some of the jobs yet defined will be creators of these environments: virtual world building. Students using the technology recently unleashed by the pandemic as noted above now have the chance to be a part of this emerging future. They will use the technology of advanced game simulation engines like Unreal and Unity. How many jobs will this be over the next 10 years? Let the forecasting begin.

Soft durable power

What skills will be needed to harness the tech and get those jobs? Programming Java? How about…

  • Collaboration
  • Curiosity
  • Communication
  • Problem Solving

Panelists in the “Meta Opportunities and Meta Challenges” session cited these key “power skills” needed by Web 3.0 workers. Look familiar? They are the same “soft skills” which define success for IT workers today – whether entry level or experienced professional. On day zero of this conference we encountered yet another term for this: “durable skills”. We think this is the most accurate term used to describe those critical skills which stand the test of time as technology and fads come and go. It’s no wonder that our apprentices, and everyone at MAXX, lives these skills every day.

Texas BBQ

And finally, thanks to John, our resident BBQ connoisseur, we made our way to Terry Black’s Barbecue – a new favorite. Hope we’ll see you there during SXSW EDU 2023.