How do we prepare kids for jobs in a future that we can’t predict? In contemplating this question there are a few things one would need to consider. First, we are going to look at the trends. You can always speculate where things are going. While signs will point in a direction, in all honesty, there really is no way of knowing for sure. But it’s still an exercise worth tackling.
Next, we are going to redefine the word success. Success for current and future generations is not the same as it was for previous generations. We’ll take a look at the new definition.
And finally, we’ll talk about a different direction for education that could adequately prepare kids for the jobs and economy of the future.
We are at the beginning of a Digital Industrial Revolution. It is a historical shift much like the industrial revolution of two hundred years ago. However, this digital industrial revolution is changing much more quickly than the revolution of the last millennium.
Marco Annunziata is Chief Economist at General Electric. A large part of his job is to predict the jobs of the future. He explains “A plausible horizon for these new technologies to really spread and transform the industrial system and the economy as we know it, you’re thinking a horizon of 20-25 years. But that’s for the complete transformation. Within the next 5-10 years we will already see very substantial changes. I’m saying this because some of these changes are already taking place.”
Maurice Conti is head of applied research and innovation at 3D design and engineering software company, Autodesk. He tells us that humans will work with technology, a partnership he is calling augmentation rather than improvement. “If we work with technology we will improve outcomes even more than either of us can do on our own.” He argues that in some cases professionals will be replaced but in most cases that isn’t true. With every new piece of technology, there are new opportunities.
While some technologies may replace jobs that exist now, they will create new opportunities, and new jobs. Human/technology collaboration is better than either one working on their own. “It’s a little bit like a dance. The human might lead, but the computer can do lots of fancy moves that together combine into something that is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Jack Ma is the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, a conglomerate of Internet-based technology and AI businesses. He is known globally as a leading innovation visionary. He explains, “Education is a big challenge now. If we do not change, 30 years later we’ll be in trouble. The way we teach, the things we teach our kids are the things of the past two hundred years. (click here to learn a little ed history) It's knowledge based. We cannot teach our kids to compete with machines. We have to teach them something unique. Values, believing, independent thinking, team work, care for others… knowledge will not teach you that. We should teach our kids sports, music, art. Making sure humans are different from machines.”
Ma is right. We cannot continue to educate for an economy of the previous centuries. Our economy is going through a massive shift, so our education has to change to meet the needs.
So, how do we know what to change? When we don’t even know exactly what the jobs will be, how do we prepare? First, we need to redefine the word success. Then we can start to find a new education direction.
Success has a neutral definition: excellence in a given field. However, our culture has defined success more specifically for us. Tell me if you’ve heard this one: “Go to college and get a job.” This suggests that if you go to college you will end up with a well-paying “white collar” job that will provide financial freedom.
You might have also heard this one: “Follow your dreams and pursue your passions.” This suggests that those seeking only financial success are living unfulfilled lives; only in making a job of your passions will you be happy. Our current culture teaches what you do for a living is the main measure of success. Whether what you do brings you money or passion, it tends to be our professions that define us.
However, we cannot continue to put all of our eggs in one basket. A college degree does not always bring the financial freedom that it once did in generations past. Having a single stream of income is dangerous in our current economy. Tying our identities to our professions can be emotionally detrimental. For some, putting the burden of sustaining our lives onto our passion can end up killing that passion.
Those who make a sustainable living from their passion have hit the jackpot. The rest of us should no longer be seen as unsuccessful. What we do for income is only a piece of the puzzle that is our life. It needs to fit, yes, but it is not the only thing that defines us.
Success should no longer be about what you do for a living, but about achieving a personal standard of excellence, about setting goals for ourselves and developing character traits to help us persist in our goals. This type of study needs to be made a priority in schools now.
For example, a character trait we must emphasize in schools is grit. Studies have shown that grit is a significant predictor of success. Angela Duckworth has conducted studies across many areas to find what determines success. She found that it wasn’t IQ scores or the ability to learn quickly and easily that lead to success in school and life. Grit emerged as the most significant predictor of success.
So, what is grit? Simply put, it is stick-to-it-iveness. It’s about stamina; the ability to stick with things even when they get challenging. Grit is a byproduct of a growth mindset. Growth Mindset is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed. It can change based on your effort. (keep an eye out for a future article detailing growth mindset)
College and career exploration should be about designing a life. We need to help young people find what their definition of success is for themselves. Help them design a life, determine what careers, or jobs, or income streams will fit within that design, plan for contingencies, and then help them find the further education they need to achieve their personal success. In a future article I will be going into more detail about what college and career, or life design, looks like now. Until then, you can learn a little bit more here.
Putting all of this together, we see that due to the Digital Industrial Revolution, jobs are changing quickly. We can’t afford not to change with them. We need to instill skills and character traits that allow for adaptability. We are moving into a future of waning resources, growing populations, and quickly changing technology. It is a future we can’t predict. So we need to differentiate ourselves from machines, and we need to change our thinking from merely job preparation to participants in problem-solving. This requires teaching students how to solidify their values and their belief system.
Help students learn to be altruistic, to be independent thinkers, to be globally minded, and to be solution-oriented problem solvers. We need to give them the knowledge to care for their well-being physically, emotionally, and financially. This is what will lead to adaptability and success in the work place.
LifeQuest® 2022: A life design and career exploration program for teens - NOW OPEN FOR ENROLLMENT
While school counselors are good resources for college application, often aren’t available or equipped to help teens figure out who they want to be and what they want to do with their lives.
1. The most common piece of advice for teens isn’t very helpful.
When a teen isn’t sure what they want to major in or do after high school, the most common piece of advice they are given is to just pick something they are interested in. This isn’t bad advice but it is incomplete. An interest can point you towards an industry but it’s who they are as a person and what they are intrinsically good at that will help them find the jobs within those industries that are uniquely suited to them. And it’s their values and priorities that help them make big decisions like this.
2. The typical college and career process is done backward!
Most teens are directed to pick out which college they want to go to first. Then find a major. Next, figure out what you will do for work. Instead we need to start with who they are as a person and who they want to be. Then they can take time contemplating what they want for their lives outside of work. Finally they can find an occupation that fits who they are and what they want for their future. They will then know the education path they need to take and finally find the right school for that.
3. Teens are finding their identity separate from their family and they want unbiased support to do this.
At this developmental stage, young people are finding their own identity separate from their parents which makes this kind of work perfect for this time of their life. In addition they are looking for unbiased guidance and support. Everyone in their lives wants the best for them, but are biased, even when they know the teen best. But you can provide the unbiased support they are looking for.