It’s interesting to look back twenty or thirty years and compare the vast changes in how we work. Then, it was imperative to show up to an office or assembly line for your nine-to-five shift. Phones were tethered to walls, whole floors were dedicated to filing cabinets and desktop computers had as much power as my first iPod. It’s hard for a Millennial to imagine.
Now, exponential technological growth is changing the face of the modern economy at a pace never seen. Global businesses are starting from humble beginnings in garages (think Amazon, Apple and Google) with a little ingenuity and a few clicks of the mouse. It’s the Wild West all over again.
I’m not sure if today’s students are being properly prepared for this new fast-paced economy. We’re in the center of a dramatic work shift from an industrial age towards a technology-based economy. Work is changing from an emphasis on manual labour to knowledge-based tasks. A student’s education becomes increasingly important to close the skills gap and help them obtain tomorrow’s jobs. The traditional approach to education is a relic of the industrial model, and it isn’t developing the skills students’ need.
So what skills do students need to be successful? Education blogs around the Interweb have varying opinions and views. I’ve narrowed it down to what I think are the three essential skills for the future: technological prowess, adaptability and problem solving.
- Being tech savvy is a bit of no-brainer, but important nonetheless. Computers are increasingly becoming the most dominant tool for problem solving. A technology-literate workforce to operate this new set of tools is essential. Just knowing how to surf your social media or find the funniest cat photos on the web isn’t enough.
- Tomorrow’s worker will have multiple employers throughout their career with freelance work being a strong possibility. The days of working 30 or 40 years for one employer and collecting your gold watch are over. Workers will need to be adaptable to changing work conditions and positions.
- The last and most important skill is problem solving. The world is full of flaws that are just waiting to be fixed. Employers don’t want to micromanage their work force; they want to empower people to find solutions. Problem solving in technology-rich environments makes our lives easier through efficiencies and can be quite lucrative (think of the home lodging network Airbnb valued at over $10 billion).
Big technological and economic changes are coming and our education system needs to play a big role in preparing students for the future workforce. The difficulty of changing a large, slow education system is evident. The good news is some people are working on it. Schools are starting to implement successful online and blended learning programs. New approaches like competency-based education have the ability to revolutionize how students think and learn. The seeds of change are planted; let’s hope the harvest isn’t too late.
It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and to adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself. – Leon C. Megginson paraphrasing Charles Darwin in his “Origin of Species.”
Have an opinion? Your comments are welcome below.