The future of jobs has been at the top of the agendas at many major conferences globally, and the consensus is that the majority of our children will hold job positions that haven’t even been created yet. Training for robot consultants and data physicians may be decades away, but software developers and computer systems analysts already command salaries that are up to five times greater than the other fastest-growing occupations identified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But do all kids need to prep for a career in technology?
The World Economic Forum advocates for a revolution in the educational ecosystem in order for the upcoming workforce to meet the needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. While impending employment trends are impossible to predict, we can prepare our kids for successful careers if we build our educational focus around these five essential skills:
1. Teach Computer Programming
Although more than 14.2 million Americans currently work in tech positions, calculates Cyberstates , the next wave of the workforce will be the most advanced tech-savvy generation. At a paperless charter school in Spokane, Wash., Kindergartners to eighth graders create and complete their assignments online using Google Suite. In Silicon Valley, students use online learning software to self-direct their academic plans, projects and pacing, allowing teachers to offer individual coaching when students struggle. Elementary students in Jacksonville, Fla., utilize free coding software to gain a foundational knowledge of computer science.
These innovative approaches to education, along with access to millions of apps and online programs, are prepping kids to intuitively navigate new software programs and media platforms. As a result, they fearlessly jump into exploring things that they don’t fully understand. Teaching kids the language of code and computational thinking provides them with the skills to analyze data for patterns, understand system design and interpret unimaginable discoveries made by artificial intelligence. By understanding technology’s role in the world, they are prepared for whatever innovations come next whether they enter medicine, manufacturing, retail or construction.
2. Teach Process Literacy
In the Information Age, knowledge is fluid. What we understand to be true today is evolving with each new discovery. Traditional education models require students to memorize formulas and facts, which is information that they already have at their fingertips thanks to mobile search engines, spreadsheets and calculators.
The future landscape demands that students understand the foundational processes of math, science, grammar and computers. With a solid base of knowledge, our future workforce will possess the ability to make sense of new information as it comes. They will have the flexibility to adapt to new models of procedures. They will have the freedom to explore the topics that matter to them, which encourages them to be self-motivated lifelong learners.
However, our kids must learn how to learn. They need to understand how the brain processes and masters information, and they need to adopt the right tools that enhance their individual abilities to learn.
3. Teach Teamwork
Virtual partnerships, multidisciplinary collaborations and culturally diverse departments are rapidly becoming the norm in the business world. Whether they are designing a machine, running a road crew, caring for a patient or analyzing data, employees must know how to be both a team player and an effective leader when the time is right.
Students will be far better prepared for employment if schools increase the emphasis on project-based school work. Through these tasks, students are encouraged to set goals, utilize project management tools, pool resources, negotiate their positions and compromise on their solutions. They also learn how to respect others’ contributions, develop empathy and cultivate trust.
The value of these collaborative social skills cannot be underestimated. Studies show that team dynamics have a direct effect on organizational efficiency and productivity. This holds true even when the collective abilities of the team are lower than an individual top performer. Research findings from McKinsey also show that ethnically diverse teams are 35 percent more likely to financially outperform homogenous teams, which means that cultural fluency will soon be a highly sought-after business skill. While cross-cultural competency is essential, kids must also have ample opportunities to develop their ability to work with people of diverse ages, genders and socio-economic backgrounds.
4. Teach Communication Skills
The key to working effectively as a team is having strong verbal and written communication skills. This concept goes far beyond mastering grammar rules. Kids must learn how to clearly express problems, explain their ideas for solutions and deftly navigate conflict resolution. At the conclusion of projects, students should have the opportunity to reflect and discuss how processes could have been improved. These social and emotional intelligence skills extend to knowing how to network, professionally represent a business as a brand ambassador, deliver dynamic presentations and interact sensitively with other cultures.
The ability to communicate clearly and concisely directly impacts a company’s bottom line. Mistakes create confusion and sometimes costly financial crises. In the business world, communication must be precise so that the meaning is clear but also courteous so that others feel valued. Rather than writing in-depth research papers on historical figures, students should learn how to develop business correspondence that explains processes or persuades others about the value of a product. They must also learn to consider the needs of the reader to ensure that the right information is being shared.
Being a good communicator also means being a good listener, which a skill that few schools focus on developing. Kids will be far ahead of the game if know how to correctly interpret body language, ask questions that help them to gain a deeper understanding and can accurately paraphrase others’ opinions.
5. Teach Problem Solving
In order to stay competitive, 21st-century companies need to hire innovative thinkers who can streamline current procedures, fabricate faster components and manufacture exciting new products. They need visionary employees who are not bound by limiting structures or practices. In contrast, school children are tied down by strict rules of conformity that dictate how they can behave and what they can learn. Additionally, instant access to DIY videos and detailed instructional guides is creating a culture of kids who would rather turn to the Internet for answers than figure out how to solve a problem on their own.
Schools need to challenge students to develop critical thinking skills that push them to produce advanced techniques. They need to engage in multi-step activities and be immersed in situations that they do not understand and then challenged to construct appropriate solutions, both in individual and teamwork settings. The scientific approach of trial and error actually builds curiosity, creativity and confidence in children as they learn to enjoy the process of exploration. It instills an attitude of resiliency to bounce back from setbacks and a boldness to seek out new skills that they can apply to solving any problem they encounter.