Work It Wednesday: What the changing workforce is telling us about how we educate students

Updated: Feb 13, 2020

I recently read an awesome article from the World Economic Forum (WEF) by Klaus Schwab titled "The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond." Since I enjoy the nexus of education, technology and career readiness, I thought the author was on point about where we, as a society (including industry and academia), need to stop and think about what we want the future of the next generation to look like in terms of a civil society.

With the viewpoint stemming from knowledge of the devastating Australian wildfires in my head along with the corona virus and the United States' impeachment trial of our president, I looked to this article for guidance. Guidance for how I can help, albeit with my small contribution, to my community and my family. I hope you will find that even a small inclination to learn something new on how to contribute to our youth, which in essence is your community, is worth your time.

The Third Industrial Revolution

Consider this: the 3rd industrial revolution utilized electronics and IT to automate production of goods and services (this began in the mid 1950's) yet in 2020, for the most part, we are still teaching our children from a lecture-to-book- delivery mode, and in many cases outdated books. [The 4th industrial revolution builds upon the 3rd revolution but in an unprecedented pace with new areas (e.g. bioengineering, autonomous vehicles) impacting all aspects of society.] As you may know, students have a phone and instantly receive notices and have grown up with technology (e.g. video games, voice-operated home systems, phone games) but they are not necessarily educated in this mode of delivery. This is especially worrisome when a student is in high school. I can understand my 1st grader not utlizing too much of an Ipad or technology systems since he is still young but when prepping for college, be it a credential via a community college or a 4-year degree, then the ball game changes. Currently, unless a student obtains entry into a topic-focused 'magnate' school (e.g. high-demand career sector--- STEM-focused high school), they take the same courses via the same delivery mode I did nearly 25 years ago!

No wonder the WEF article found 'students most sought-after jobs overwhelmingly required post-secondary or even advanced degrees, but researchers found a mismatch between students’ career goals and their academic performance and educational plans."

Why should we care?

Simply put, the future of what a job in our economy, be it local, state, national or global will look like, is not making its way into classrooms. A new global study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development finds teenagers’ “dream jobs” today are nearly identical to those in 2000, and could leave many students at a disadvantage in the emerging economy, writes Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s director for education and skills and a co-author of the study, at a discussion of the study during the 50th annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The example Mr. Schleicher gave was of a 'data scientist' which is a career that did not exist 10 years ago but has become an in-demand, high paying job: "...most have never experienced it and can’t understand what one does. It highlights that we just need to do a much better job in bringing this future of work to classes of young people who do not see it.”

Career Guidance

I have always been dumbfounded by how we expect students in high school (age 16-18) to know what they will study and become, in terms of a career, for the rest of their lives. Who does this? Very few folks know from a young age what they want to be when they grow up; this is a good thing for them and I have been, at one time or another, slightly jealous of those folks; however, this does not happen to every child. We must nourish their interests and teaching all core subjects from Kinder through 12th grade will not accomplish feeding an interest to allow a passion to flourish.

How about using current websites (e.g. Newsela ) , to both keep students abreast of real-world happenings and save money in purchasing too many textbooks that when you consider technology or science subjects, change almost every year? How about we teach students ethics, social and emotional intelligence and real-world skills that will serve them in applying there credentials/degrees in a work environment? How about utilizing your local industry to provide experiential learning opportunities to juniors and seniors in high school? How about considering that most high school students already work part-time jobs? Solution: offer them year-round, part-time jobs related to their career interest? To me, this does not seem too novel of an idea but one that will help your local communities while also encouraging folks to #hirelocal students and therein build a future, local workforce pipeline.



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