A recent report produced by a panel of technical, business and academic experts from around the world suggested that 85 per cent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. It looks as if we will soon need drone managers, and vertical gardeners may help to utilise the limited surface space in some countries. Dell Technologies declared that “the pace of change will be so rapid that people will learn ‘in the moment’, using new technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality. The ability to gain new knowledge will be more valuable than the knowledge itself”. So perhaps we should prepare our young people for a lifetime of skills training? The ascendancy of Artificial Intelligence poses new challenges for our future workforce, whose emotional intelligence will need to be all the more sharp and responsive.
When I was at school, there was a Careers Room which was a bit out of the way and often locked. We saw little relationship between the information that lurked within it and our futures. Fortunately, Careers education has changed enormously: I am sure that FIDS schools enjoyed a range of activities and thought-provoking inputs during March’s National Careers Week. It was great to see our pupils, from Year 7 upwards, being encouraged to explore all sorts of future pathways. They enjoyed Careers-based quizzes, Twitter feeds, briefings and Q and A sessions with men and women from a variety of employment backgrounds. It was clear that boys and girls no longer see themselves restricted to specific roles and are well aware that their working lives may involve a series of employment episodes, perhaps only slightly related to each other, in a “portfolio career”. Therefore, transferrable skills and flexibility of mind are at a premium.
Work Experience has also changed for the better since the last century, when making the tea and filing were common tasks for the visiting 15 or 16 year-old. I often hear from my pupils about the stimulating and privileged insights that they have on modern placements. They attend client meetings, they assist in the production of materials and documents for real-world application and are treated with deference by employers, who know that such visitors have the potential to turn into high quality employees, if their interest is nurtured. Gone are the days of university summers spent backpacking: the modern undergraduate has her/his internships lined up, to gain a foothold in the competitive employment market.
There is much that we can do in schools to enhance our pupils’ employment prospects. We must embed a sense of the working world in all that we do from the outset of secondary education, never missing opportunities to relate what is learnt inside the classroom to future occupations. It is great to see enterprise and business competitions for Key Stage 2 and 3 pupils, through such initiatives as the Make £5 Grow scheme by Virgin Money. This is developed later by the work of Young Enterprise, which replicates the world of business for Sixth Formers who are required to conceive, market and make profit from their own products and services. Dragons Den denizens Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis have both launched their own competitions, the Tycoon in Schools and Ryman National Enterprise Challenge respectively. There is a growing range of STEM-related activities to bring problem-solving and creativity to the fore. The F1 in Schools project is rooted in real-world work, with pupils racing their designs in finals at Silverstone; the Faraday Challenge Day requires the production of prototype solutions for engineering problems, and the Big Bang Fair celebrates the work of young people in engineering and science. For our digital native children, IT is a sophisticated tool for all aspects of work processing, planning and self-expression. We need to counsel our young against excessive mobile device use for social proposes, but we must not reduce their awareness of the critical value of such platforms in the world of work.
Our extra-curricular offering has as much to bring to our children’s skill set as the acquisition of good academic credentials. Children who benefit from healthy competition and teamwork in sport, from performing opportunities in music and drama, and the physical demands of outdoor pursuits through D of E and other schemes, can develop a toolkit to serve them in their working lives. Prefecting and mentoring offer soft skills in personnel management and leadership that transfer seamlessly into the workplace. Discussion, debate and artistic pursuits hone clear thinking and build articulate expression.
So let’s take every chance for the learning experience of the present to lead into the exciting opportunities of the future, by integrating Careers and Employability awareness imaginatively into our pupils’ daily lives.