Preparing Students for Future Careers
Technological innovation is revolutionizing the job market, as the world enters a major turning point. From self-driving cars and smart homes to nano-robots and gene editing, emerging fields like artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, and nanotechnology offer unprecedented possibilities for improving our lives. The exponential rate of discoveries and breakthroughs has business leaders calling this critical period a “Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
As society adapts to the changes brought by technological advancement, the future looks bright – yet as history has shown, the social and economic impact of progress is not without its challenges.
Through the power of water and steam, the Industrial Revolution saw production move from hands to machines. Between the 19th and 20th centuries, new energy sources led to the advent of mass production and the rise of workers being displaced by automation. During the more recent Digital Revolution, electronic and information technology began transforming the market economy into a sharing economy.
Although technological innovation does have the potential to provide new opportunities for social and economic growth, the reality is that abrupt technological shifts also increase the risk of job insecurity – and current data trends are already cause for concern.
According to the World Economic Forum, over one-third of the core skills demanded by industries will change by 2020, which means that this paradigm shift is potentially disrupting the future of workers. By one estimate, 65 percent of children today will have future jobs that have yet to be invented.
Given the rapid transformation of the global workforce, many parents are wondering, “How do we prepare students for finding a job in the future, when the careers of today will be obsolete tomorrow?”
Rethinking education systems must become the long term focus of communities as they educate future generations. But how can educators plan for a future they can’t predict?
The current school system in most countries relies on an increasingly outdated model of education in which the teacher transmits knowledge to the student through lectures, homework assignments, and tests. This transmission and acquisition model of education, known as “instructionism” by learning scientists, fails to meet the challenges posed by current economic trajectories.
Trends in the job market reveal a growing demand for employees with a mix of both technical and social skills. Universal skillsets will become the key to training workers capable of adapting to technological changes.
Alternative models of education are now providing the answers to 21st century problems. The surge of schools rooted in project-based, or experiential, learning is evidence of the transformations occurring to prepare students for the future. Teaching methods grounded in constructivist approaches to learning allow students to develop their skills within a professional and social context – a real-world situation that lets them “learn by doing” – and helps them link knowledge concepts to the activity, context, and culture in which they learned it.
Similarly, in an article for the World Economic Forum 2018, researchers suggest that to successfully prepare students for 21st century jobs, universities should emphasize breadth of knowledge over narrow specialties. Although the deep understanding that comes from study in a specific subject will still be important, the ultimate objective is to move towards multidisciplinary approaches to solving real-world problems. Already universities are encouraging students to forgo traditional majors, allowing them to instead build their studies around a mission – a stated goal that provides the purpose to learning.
Most importantly, instilling a commitment to lifelong learning in students now will ensure their survival in the future.