Why Online Students Transition Easily to the World of Work
“It can be a rough transition from a world in which parents and teachers plan your schedule, set your goals, and enforce your work ethic to one in which all of that is up to you. We hear over and over again from graduates of online programs about the robust self-management skills they gained from working at their own pace and being accountable for their progress every day. Even students who took just an online course or two during their K–12 careers feel they have an edge when they get to college and into the work world.”
—Pat Hoge, PhD, Chief Academic Officer / Executive Vice President of Curriculum and Instruction, Connections Academy
Love it or hate it, the 21st-century workplace is changing at a faster and faster pace—driven by automation, globalization, and shifting demographics. Will your student be ready for this rapidly evolving workplace?
Let’s take a look at three skills employers say they’ll need in tomorrow’s workplace and why online students may be uniquely positioned to excel there.
21st-century Job Skills: What Are They?
“On average, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today, according to our respondents. Overall, social skills—such as persuasion, emotional intelligence, and teaching others—will be in higher demand across industries than narrow technical skills, such as programming or equipment operation and control. In essence, technical skills will need to be supplemented with strong social and collaboration skills.
—The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills, and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, World Economic Forum
The days are gone when a worker can base a lifetime career one largely unchanging set of skills. Instead, workers will be asked to constantly retool their skills to match an ever-changing set of employer needs and technological innovations. So, not surprisingly, when asked to identify the most in-demand job skills through 2020 and beyond, employers don’t point solely to ultraspecific technical skills. They also point to general competencies and aptitudes applicable across a range of 21st-century industries and positions.
What are those in-demand competencies and attitudes?
Though terminology varies slightly, you’ll find three recurring themes in employer surveys conducted or reported by respected resources such as Forbes, the World Economic Forum, and McKinsey & Company. Employers will be looking for workers who are:
- Self-motivated, self-directed learners
- Able to plan, organize, and prioritize their work
- Able to collaborate effectively within diverse teams, both in person and virtually
To paraphrase one employer surveyed, “I can provide technical skills training on the job, but I can’t teach someone how to learn.”
Where Tomorrow’s Workplace and Today’s Online Classroom Intersect
If your student is already attending school online, the similarities between these 21st-century skills and those fostered in the online classroom are pretty obvious. For families new to online school or those just now exploring their education options, here’s what you’ll want to know.
Self-motivated, self-directed learning: In Connections Academy®–supported online public schools and International Connections Academy private online school, teachers and Learning Coaches help students evolve into self-directed learners over their K–12 years.
Starting with lots of adult guidance in the elementary years, students take on increasing responsibility for their own learning as they progress from middle school to high school. By the time online students graduate high school, their take-charge attitude toward learning is exactly what smart employers will be looking for.
Taking the concepts of self-directed learning and employability even further, a new online public high school, Indiana Connections Career Academy, launches on August 10 for career-focused students in Indiana. This new hybrid online school combines academics, career technical education pathways, and real-world work experience.
Planning, organizing, and prioritizing work: While flexibility is one of the great advantages of online schooling, virtual school also requires students to develop strong self-management skills. With tools like Connexus® education management system and special LiveLesson® sessions on time management, organizational skills, and good study habits, online students develop the skill sets not only to plan and prioritize their own work but also to organize their teams’ work!
Collaborating with diverse teams: Consider this. In the online classrooms, students from various cultures, regions, and backgrounds regularly collaborate on projects ranging from robotics competitions to art and literature publications. They learn how students in other parts of the country and around the world approach problems, interpret information, and see the world. They learn to find the common ground necessary to get the job done.
In world language classes, teachers integrate information on traditions, history, and food to give students an appreciation of other cultures. In our Time to Talk program, students can practice their Chinese or Spanish in real time with a native speaker. Offering more languages than many traditional schools are able to provide, online school can give students the ability to study languages that best match their personal interests and career objectives.
Perhaps equally important, we put 21st-century collaboration tools in our students’ hands and show them how to use online technology responsibly and effectively. From secure chat rooms to our Connexus® education management system, our technology introduces students to tools similar to those they’ll find in tomorrow’s workplace.
To put it simply, self-direction, technology, collaboration, and diversity are part of our curriculum and the way we’re structured. With Connections Academy, these skills are part of the online school DNA, which means that students transitioning to the modern workplace will hit the ground running!
Will your student be ready for the 21st-century workplace? Tell us why or why not in the comments below.