Future work skills

My colleague at CORE, Jedd Bartlett sent me a link this morning to the Future Work Skills 2020 report from the University of Phoenix – very timely as I'm preparing for a talk in a few days where I will be speaking about a future focused approach to preparing our learners in schools.

The report highlights six big drivers believed to be reshaping how we think about work, what constitutes work, and the skills we will need to be productive contributors in the future:

  1. Extreme longevity: Increasing global lifespans change the nature of careers and learning
  2. Rise of smart machines and systems: Workplace automation nudges human workers out of rote, repetitive tasks
  3. Computational world: Massive increases in sensors and processing power make the world a programmable system
  4. New media ecology: New communication tools require new media literacies beyond text.
  5. Superstructed organizations: Social technologies drive new forms of production and value creation.
  6. Globally connected world: Increased global intercon- nectivity puts diversity and adaptability at the center of organizational operations.

There are huge implications here for schools – at two levels:

(a) in terms of defining our educative purpose – what we are teaching, why, how etc., and

(b) in terms of the very nature of schools as insititutions and the work practices that define them.

The report identifies ten skills that the researchers believe will be vital for success in the workforce:

  • Sense-making: ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed
  • Social intelligence: ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions
  • Novel and adaptive thinking: proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based
  • Cross -cultural competency: ability to operate in different cultural settings
  • Computational thinking: ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning
  • New media literacy: ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication
  • Transdisciplinarity: literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines
  • Design mindset: ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes
  • Cognitive load management: ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques
  • Virtual collaboration: ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team.

Difficult to imagine how such competencies can be addressed in our current school system without a significant re-think in terms of our curriculum, our pedagogical practice, our operational systems and structures.

The question remains – "are we preparing our students for their future… or our past?"

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