Educators have a daunting task. It's our job to help students prepare for a workforce that we can't describe.
Today, people have jobs that we couldn't dream of several years ago. For example ...
- managing social media for companies
- arranging work-from-home or telecommuting
- optimizing websites for search engines
People all over the world are doing these jobs. Many of them are probably making more money than lots of us in education. If someone told us a decade ago that someone could make a living doing these jobs, we might have laughed at them.
Ken Robinson puts it this way in his wildly popular TED Talk, "Do schools kill creativity?":
So you were probably steered benignly away from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked, on the grounds that you would never get a job doing that. Is that right? Don't do music, you're not going to be a musician; don't do art, you won't be an artist. Benign advice -- now, profoundly mistaken. The whole world is engulfed in a revolution.
The workforce will look different when our students enter it. In fact, it likely will look different before many of them enter it.
We can't keep teaching as if the world is static and will always look like it did for us.
I think there are certain skills that are timeless, that we can help students develop that will serve them no matter what the future will look like. I think these skills can help students become "future ready" (whatever that really means).
Here are 10 ways we can help students prepare for the workforce of the future:
1. Give students as much control of their learning as we can.
If the workforce is shifting constantly, students will need to be able to learn on their own. We can empower them to find what they need when they need it. We can help them tailor their education to what works for them so they'll know how to do it later.
2. Help students become adept at learning new tools.
Not long ago, many schools focused on teaching students Microsoft Office. It was the gold standard of digital productivity and a necessary tool to use. As the world changes, more and more options will exist for getting things done. We can help students know how to learn new tools instead of just teaching them the ones that are useful now. That skill will endure.
3. Encourage students to give it a shot.
In the past, your standing in the workforce was a bit more concrete. Workers often stuck with the same job their entire working lives. Bureau of Labor Statistics data suggests that that's changing, that workers will stay in jobs on average for 4.2 years and will change jobs more than 10 times. Getting and keeping jobs is going to require some innovative thinking. We can encourage students to try new things whether they're completely sure it'll work out or not.
4. Give students opportunities to be creative.
If these new jobs are appearing out of nowhere, someone has to dream them up. Creativity is a skill that we can help students develop. Plus, it's a skill that's increasingly necessary where more cognitively complex jobs are in demand. We can let students flex their creativity muscles in their work in our classes.
5. Put students in situations where they must communicate.
New ideas and concepts are becoming more and more valuable in the world. Ideas are only as good as the way you explain them to others. Communication is a skill that has served people throughout the ages. It's also one that needs more focus as text messaging and social media has made it less face-to-face and often more shallow. We can give students opportunities to become good communicators in many different types of communication.
6. Connect students globally.
The digital communication mentioned above makes virtually anyone around the world accessible. Pulling in ideas and working together with people around our cities, states, countries and beyond isn't just possible -- it's easy now. We can put students in touch with people with different viewpoints, perspectives and experiences. And we can show them how to make those connections themselves.
7. Help students think of adding value.
Really, one of the most important skills one can bring to the workforce is the ability to add value to a company, a client or a community. Adding value can take many shapes. We can help students take the mindset of finding creative ways to help. They'll find new ways to become valuable to their employers (even if that employer is themselves!).
8. Encourage students to find their own place in the world.
Many entrepreneurship experts say that it's never been easier to start a business. Anyone can establish a voice in an industry, develop a platform for getting that message out, and create his/her authority. The web, social media and communication tools can help students do whatever they can imagine when they reach the workforce. We can help students develop a broader view of what's possible to earn a living by encouraging them to make their own way.
9. Put students in a position where they must think on their feet.
Quick thinking and adapting on the fly are skills that aren't going away. Those are skills that can be developed, too. They're not innate gifts. We can help students practice coming up with good ideas on the spot so they're better at it when they leave school.
10. Help students think about novelty.
New ideas are currency, especially when they're acted upon and carried out. However, you don't need a brand new idea that no one has ever thought of. Often, a new spin on an old idea has value, and so does an old idea with its focus in a different place. We can help students practice generating new ideas or new versions of old ideas so they'll be able to create new products, practices or jobs later.
Looking for more? In a recent #Ditchbook Twitter chat moderated by Scott Nunes he asked the community "How are you preparing students for jobs and tasks of the future? What kinds of innovative tasks, projects, or ideas can you share?". They shared tons of ideas, tips, and resources.
Scroll down for more than 25 ideas shared by educators on how we can help students become future ready. Be sure to also check out the entire conversation here.
What do you think we can do to help students become ready for the future workforce? Do you agree or disagree with any of the 10 mentioned above? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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I do agree with the 10 ways listed, with a caveat — I think for the younger students (Kindergartens through 3rd? or 4th? graders) still need opportunities at school for some more basic education. I believe that for kids ages 5 to 8 or 9, schools should devote a fair amount of time to activities that allow them to develop fine motor skills. Also, at these early ages, it is important for educators to have many structured activities so they can observe how the students handle various tasks — thus allowing them to identify any learning challenges EARLY. But for older kids, this all sounds fantastic.
I recall having a Mom complain to me (this was 4 or 5 years ago) about how much time her son’s friends spent on their gaming platforms and they didn’t even know how to make a powerpoint presentation. I looked at her and said that the future of sharing information would probably entail skills they were learning with their gaming activities, not the software we are using right now.
Barbara — Thanks so much for your comment. My background is in high school, so I often think with a high school teacher’s mind. I can definitely see your point of view and am glad you wrote it in as a comment to add to the discussion. And I think you’re spot on with your comment to the parent … the world and tech are changing rapidly and probably won’t be anything like what we’re seeing right now in the future!
From your post: “We can’t keep teaching as if the world is static and will always look like it did for us.” Indeed, I wonder how many educators teach their students using the same pedagogy used when they were students? AND remember, today’s educators were almost certainly good learners – likely learned some times in spite of the pedagogy used!!! Too many students will not become effective learners unless we educators help them become effective learners!!!
Your list indeed CAN help; we MUST insure all students engage in efforts to build this capability!!!
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