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Jonathan Winter sails into Bristol and observes the new world of work

For six months I’m circumnavigating Britain, celebrating the people and places of these islands. Recently we sailed into the historic port city of Bristol, a place I know from my days as an aeronautical engineering student. I wondered: What’s changed? And what does it mean for people and places that want to thrive in the future? Arriving in the docks, the obvious changes are the apartments, offices, bars and restaurants that now make up the waterfront. It’s a vibrant city centre. Tourism is growing, including more visitors from China. Campaigns and protests are visible, notably on Brexit and the environment (Bristol has declared a climate emergency and set ambitious targets). Other changes are more subtle. Bristol continues to be a creative hub for arts and film, and

these days apps and computer games. Noticably more individuals use flexible co-working spaces. Others rely on teams being together. I visited the offices of Aardman – famous for Wallace & Gromit – who have grown and thrived. They require diverse skills and people. Today in addition to animators, who mix traditional and new computer skills, they also need skills in rights management and licensing. Their craft is a great example of the need to judge carefully what can and can’t be automated. Animation still requires the creative human touch.

For people and places to thrive, we all need to respond with care to the rapid, sweeping changes of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, in which new technologies combine. Learning is vital, and these days it’s not knowledge but application that’s key – hence ‘reskilling’. We’ll learn in ways that are MPPG: Mobile, Participatory, Personalised and in Groups. Above all we need to believe we are not powerless in the face of change. But to seize that power, we all – people and organisations – need to take the time to re-think our work and our skills, and then to act.

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