The world has changed a lot in the last few decades and is likely to change even more. As Education is meant to help students thrive in this ‘new world’ – do we make enough time to pause and think whether our current practices are still relevant? Are we preparing ourselves and our students to navigate the complex jobscape of tomorrow?
Question 1: Are we fostering a flexible mindset in ourselves and our students?
The days when careers were linear and stable are long gone. According to some estimates, Australians will soon be having on average 17 jobs across 5 different careers in the near future! The factors are complex and include ‘gig economy’, globalization, AI (artificial intelligence), automation, etc.
That’s where having a flexible mindset and not identifying yourself by a particular ‘job’ is not only wise- it’s essential. One trick that can help with it is to see jobs in ‘clusters’, or, using academic analogy- using an ‘interdisciplinary’ mindset.
If you haven’t heard about ‘job clusters’, it seems to be a brainchild of Jen Owen, who received an Order of Australia for her work with young people. In her keynote at ASCILITE conference she shared that her Foundation for Young Australians analysed 2.7 million job ads and concluded that it’s possible to view all current jobs as belonging to one of the 7 ‘clusters’ based on skills/interests (see below). Some of these clusters have a grim future, while others will be on the rise. For more info, see their report on this project.
Question 2: Are we placing enough emphasis on transferable skills?
While you may or may not agree with the 7 clusters, they provide reassurance that many skills are easily transferable. An implication for us (educators) is that these skills ought to become a foundation for any learning. Yes, there will be specific ‘content’ that students will need to learn for their 17 different jobs, but the ‘job-specific’ content can be added on top of a firm foundation of transferable skills. In other words, rather than being a nice ‘add-on’ to the disciplinary content, transferable skills should become the base for learning. Pretty radical, huh?
Interestingly, it is the jobs that require strong interpersonal and communication skills, like Carers and Informers, that are likely to have better job prospects in the future (based on FYO report). I guess it’s understandable considering that Robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are likely to become our long-term colleagues and take the burden off routine and automated tasks.
So the facts and figures that are so highly valued today will become ‘cheap’ just like the Internet has suddenly made information ‘cheap’ and ‘readily available’ and the world of print newspapers and magazines was turned upside down.
It’s pretty clear that our future students no longer need to be cramming easily accessible facts and figures, and should instead be focusing on social skills, empathy, self-efficacy, resilience, and the ability to learn independently. Are we doing enough to facilitate the development of these skills and are we assessing them?
Question 3: Are we serious about ‘life-long’ learning?
Given that the students are likely to change careers 5 times in their life and have on average 17 jobs, they’ll need to do a lot of learning on their own. How well are we scaffolding lifelong learning skills? What activities are we using for and are assessing these activities?
There’s where giving students more ownership of their learning by using project-based learning or problem-based learning are a great start. It’s also important to encourage students to reflect on what works for them and become more ‘self-aware’ as students. If they know what helps them learn, they can use these techniques in the future. It’s also important to promote and model the ‘growth mindset’, where students are encouraged to embrace challenge, practice self-compassion, see effort as journey, etc.
Finally, we also could be thinking more about micro-credentialing opportunities opening up at our University (thank you Curriculum Architecture project!). It might allow us to create smaller and more targeted content areas, with the aim of staying relevant in the times of ‘constant re-skilling’. Now may be a good time to ask yourself what you can offer to the highly discerning learners of the future and contribute to their needs for lifelong learning? Can you create a new ‘micro-credentialed’ course for those people who need to re-skill and learn certain targeted competencies and knowledge quickly and efficiently?
So as change is becoming a new normal, are we taking the time to think and plan for it?