The New World of Work. Are our students ready?

Are we preparing our students for our yesterday or their tomorrow? The question has been asked for generations in educational settings but seems to be a more apt question to be asking now. The challenge for schools and post-school institutions is that they are preparing students for courses and a workforce that may not even exist yet.

The world of work is changing: 65 % of children entering primary school today will be employed in jobs that do not yet exist, according to the World Economic Forum in its 2016 report The Future of Jobs.

This is the dilemma faced by parents as they visit career expos with their children in the lead up to subject choices for the final years of schooling and who find themselves asking the question, ‘ Is the career my child aspires to today still be an option when they graduate…or not?’ 

Added to this is the real possibility that they are not being prepared for the future of work by schools that are unable to envision an ambiguous and changing workforce. 

On an optimistic note, more schools are offering courses in robotics, coding and other advanced STEM subjects. Dennis Kambeitz [founder of robots.education] observes: ‘Robotics is a literacy, a layer that will influence all parts of society and jobs. Robotics will be in the future what computer technology is now—something that impacts every part of life and work, whether or not people are trained to exclusively work with them.’

As their subjects evolve, thousands of STEM  teachers [Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics]  need to learn new skills and concepts to then teach their students.

This impacts significantly on girls and young women who face countless obstacles in pursuing an education in STEM which may include stereotypes of what girls should and shouldn’t study, gender bias and often unreceptive climates for female students in science and engineering departments in institutions such as universities and colleges.

A Google-Gallup study based on 2015-2016 surveys found the disparity between girls’ and boys’ involvement in STEM starts early. Girls’ interest in computer science drops between the ages of 12 and 14 just when boys are becoming more interested in the field.

The study also found that there are notable discrepancies between the classroom experiences of boys and girls. ‘Boys are much more likely to have been told by teachers they’d be good at computer science, according to the study. Girls are also less likely to feel they’re skilled in STEM or express confidence in their ability to learn computer science.’

Despite these inequities and the technological changes taking place at such a fast pace, the workplace will always contain people. Today students must learn how to work together to solve problems, rather than just on projects or product development in their future workplaces. ‘Education not just about income’, says Christina Slade. ‘It is about fulfilment and enrichment. We may not be able to predict the jobs of the future, but we can help to ensure that students find fulfilment in the jobs they choose to do.

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