Preparing Students for Jobs That Don’t Exist Yet
“We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist … using technologies that haven’t been invented … in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”—Richard Riley, former Secretary of Education
Data scientist. Digital artist. App developer. Virtual assistant. Blogger.
What do they have in common? They’re all jobs that didn’t exist 20 years ago.
According to a 2016 report by the World Economic Forum, “By one popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.” Even “old” jobs will look radically different in workplaces transformed by technology, changing demographics, and globalization.
So how do we prepare students for jobs and workplaces that don’t exist yet? Here are a few thoughts gathered from teachers at Connections Academy®—supported schools. After all, they are pioneers in online education, a field that itself didn’t exist 20 years ago.
Three Essential Skills
We can’t predict exactly what the new jobs will be, but from various economic experts, we do know the skills that will be needed. As educators, we also know how student-centered online schools are helping to develop those skills.
Complex Problem Solving: In the industrial age of the early 20th century, employers needed workers who could simply show up on time and follow instructions. Reflecting those needs, our public education system emphasized “seat time,” rote memorization, and basic skills development. But in the information age of the 21st century, employers will need workers who can think independently and identify and solve increasingly complex problems. In fact, according to the same World Economic Forum report, “in 2020, more than one-third (36%) of all jobs across all industries are expected to require complex problem-solving as one of their core skills.”
Learning in the online classroom prepares students with those skills by:
- Providing project-based learning opportunities that allow students to define a real-world problem and design and test solutions to that problem
- Requiring students to take progressively more responsibility for their learning as they advance through the school years
- Tracking students’ problem solving in real time through an education management system that helps us to intervene with the right help at the right time.
Critical Thinking: From Wikipedia to mass media, we’re flooded with more information today than at any time in history. That trend will only continue in the future, requiring workers to be more efficient critical thinkers and consumers of information. They will need to quickly differentiate between credible and noncredible sources; analyze information for bias, logic, and accuracy; and recombine that information to create new solutions and products.
In online school, students are led by example and by design:
- Setting high information standards with multimedia resources from leading education publishers and providers
- Integrating critical thinking, research, and writing skills across content areas—from math to American history
- Helping students sharpen those skills in online clubs and Career Technical Education courses geared to their personal passions and career interests—from robotics to finance.
Collaboration. As tomorrow’s workers collaborate with colleagues across the hall and around the globe, they’ll need technical and communication skills as well as the ability to understand other cultures and viewpoints. When it comes to these 21st-century collaboration skills, online students may have the competitive edge.
Online students have opportunities to:
- Work and learn online with peers from diverse backgrounds and geographic areas
- Team up on group projects where they learn to plan, delegate, communicate, and hold one another accountable for meeting a common goal
- Practice their foreign-language and cultural skills with native speakers online
- Learn to use online collaboration tools respectfully and effectively—from the chat room to the virtual classroom.
One Essential Passion
As jobs and the workplace continue evolving at an exponential pace, online students will also need a passion for lifelong learning—embracing new technologies, ideas, and skills. As the new school year begins, Connections Academy educators are committed to inspiring that passion in every student. And by getting involved in your child’s education as a virtual school Learning Coach, you can play a vital role in your children’s future success by encouraging them to explore their interests and develop valuable career skills.
How do you help your student plan for the future? Share your best ideas in the comments!