What Jobs Are We Preparing Children For?

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Lynn How

Lynn is the Editor at Teacher Toolkit. With 20 years of primary teaching and SLT experience, she has been an Assistant Head, Lead Mentor for ITT and SENCO. She loves to write and also has her own SEMH and staff mental health blog: www.positiveyoungmind.com. Lynn...
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How can we prepare our pupils for the jobs of the future?

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), over half of the world’s young people will end up in jobs that haven’t been created yet. As educators, how on earth are we meant to prepare our young people for a world of work that we can’t predict?

Current infant aged children are studying a curriculum which I doubt many would describe as ‘futureproof’ and many children in the current generation will be living to a ripe old age of 100. My pension says I will work until I’m 68 – goodness knows what my children’s and children’s children’s pensionable age will be. A longer working life, brings the likelihood of increased career changes and a variety of paths.

Providing a relevant education

I’ve compiled a list of some of the skills and topic areas that I think will be integral for students to have some knowledge of and expertise in, in order to be prepared for career paths of the future.

1. The Crux: Self-efficacy

This is the lynchpin that will allow all the other skills that young people need to come to fruition. Pioneered by Bandura and Ajzen, it is the fundamental, unwavering belief that you will be successful. Setbacks are but temporary in the pursuit of your goal. Successful athletes can visualise and taste their success and this single-mindedness is what makes them successful. Life is a marathon not a sprint after all. An individual’s high confidence in task completion makes them much more likely to succeed.

My personal take on this is that it is a double-edged sword. Yes, I agree that you need to have confidence in order to succeed but arrogance is not a trait I regard highly! Nevertheless, many of our children in school lack confidence which we can often see holds back their ability to be successful. This is why a growth mindset if so fundamental. Building that confidence in those who are lacking is a good place to start.

Can self-efficacy be learned? Yes. Bandura suggested four ways to increase self-efficacy:

  • Mastering skills through hands-on experience
  • Observing others with self-efficacy achieve success
  • Hearing that others believe in one’s ability to succeed
  • Re-routing negative thoughts into positive ones
2. Adaptability

In the world of work, the next generation will take on a myriad of different roles either within one company or change job roles more frequently. Therefore, homing in on the skills children need in terms of adaptability is fundamental to future success. The art of evolving to suit a role. For example, more traditional companies are starting to think differently by allowing employees to pick and choose projects depending on where the gaps are as opposed to being constricted by the boundaries of their job title. An employee may find themselves writing an equality policy in one month then moving on to managing a large project in the next.

Teachers as a profession, already have some experience in this area. We see a gap and we plug it. One week planning an educational visit and the next raising money for new library books. Our skills in this area and our mindset to adapt as required, can be imparted to the next generation as a good starting point.

3. People skills

I say it time and time again at parents evening. It is nothing to panic about that Molly is not quite at ‘expected’ level for the 3Rs because she has what many children who are functioning at a higher level lack. She has people skills. She is kind, empathetic and loyal. She can mediate peer disputes without getting involved. She will be very employable in comparison to a child I am thinking of, who is ‘exceeding’, but who is somewhat aloof and has the social skills of a potato. Employers need people-people, these traits are often regarded more highly than academic prowess.

4. Life skills

This is a contentious issue. Where does the role of parent end and teacher begin when teaching children about sex and money? Whilst working with a Year 4 class last term I was unsurprised to find that the majority had no idea how much a house cost (average prediction £1000) or how much an average wage was or what a mortgage was. The only one who had any inkling of what was involved was because his parents had just been through a divorce which involved buying and selling of houses. I am all for not discussing certain things with children until it is necessary but tomorrow’s generation needs to be a bit more clued up, especially about money.

I worry that my daughter has a much too comfortable life, fuelled by the instantaneous way in which we/I shop. I order something for her from Amazon, she is at the window wondering where the postman is. Prime is good, but not that good! However, in 50 years I’ll have a drone tapping on my nursing home window within minutes. Kids need to know the value of stuff, be thankful for stuff and have an understanding of the effort their parents go to, to get them stuff and how to organise their own stuff (i.e. credit cards) when they are older. This will stand them in good stead for the world of work.

5. More life skills

In the new world of even more explicit equality, both boys and girls should be equally ready to train to be engineers, firefighters, nursery nurses, stay at home Dads/Mums with the ability to cook/clean/build IKEA furniture. A greater variety of family units will accept without prejudice. Children should be ready to work alongside a variety of nationalities and know how to be respectful to different cultures. We are working hard in schools for this to happen but I wouldn’t like to speculate how many generations it will take for it to be embedded in society if we even truly manage it at all.

6. Communication

Methods of communication have changed exponentially since I bought my first mobile phone aged 17. Social media and mobile phone communication is a high priority in terms of skills that young people need. These technologies are changing the ways in which we work such as interviewing someone on another continent through Skype or more people being able to work remotely or from home. Alas, this has not filtered through to class teaching (I’m not convinced that my ‘teacher stare’ would have the same effect via video link) although, it is possible to tutor children in this way. We can do nothing about the glut of technology which has infiltrated our lives, but we can teach children to move with it, be tech savvy (such as the recent change to include programming in the computing curriculum), as well as teach children to be respectful online, to understand that employers will check their Facebook page before interview and that to sell your brand to the masses, you need a positive online presence.

This post is by no means a full list of all the traits and skills that the next generation will require but merely a taster. There is much information available on the internet which keeps evolving as new speculations are suggested.

7 thoughts on “What Jobs Are We Preparing Children For?

  1. We will prepare children for the future by teaching explicitly the knowledge that had been useful in the past. Life skills are inherently learnt, we need to teach the things that are not:maths, literature, history, the sciences, art and music. And they need to be taught explicitly and with factual knowledge.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I agree that life skills should be inherently learnt and that we as educators should be focusing on the the more academic side of things. Unfortunately, schools now pick up the slack from less effective parenting in these areas.

  2. I completely agree with your points. The coming generation’s future is not future-proof. There is so much that has happened into all the fields in previous years. Competition level has been extended. And the old education system too needs an upgrade. Few academies are adapting the automation, but there is so much to get changed still.

    1. Thanks James, sadly some academies appear to have reverted to the dark ages in terms of teaching methods. It feel like as a system, we are too busy fire fighting to even consider 5 years time let alone 50!

  3. I love this article! I discuss often on my website studentcenteredworld.com about how we are basically preparing our students for jobs that do not yet exist. It is an interesting time we are living in! Thanks for the article 🙂

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