Many of today’s primary school children are likely to grow up into a society that has changed significantly. In the workforce, some new industries and roles will be created, and many of the jobs that are around today could be radically changed. According to a study by McKinsey, for example, 60% of all jobs will have a third of their current tasks automated.
This begs the question of how educators can successfully ensure students are ready for their future. The answer is that alongside a continued focus on numeracy and literacy, and an appreciation of history, arts and culture, tomorrow’s citizens will need to be prepared for a workforce that will change. And they will need to be prepared to train and retrain throughout their (longer) careers.
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Here are some of the most important skills every worker will need by 2030.
The global economy getting to grips with what is becoming known as the fourth industrial revolution. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, automation, and virtual and augmented reality are blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres.
A basic requirement for any worker in this brave new world will be digital literacy, but this is likely to go beyond being able to use a smartphone and navigate social media.
Even learning computer coding skills is unlikely to be enough: a whitepaper by the World Economic Forum, Realizing Human Potential in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (PDF document), points out that coding may well “become redundant due to advances in machine learning”.
The paper adds that what will remain useful is “underlying training in computational and logical thinking”.
The four Cs
Educators may be increasingly likely to find themselves teaching the “four Cs” alongside the traditional and still important “three Rs” of reading, writing and arithmetic.
The four Cs, identified by the US National Education Association as crucial for successful future workers are: critical thinking; communication; collaboration; and creativity. Some education systems have placed these at the heart of their philosophy, for example the framework for 21st century learning developed by US employers and educators.
In this approach, such skills are not learnt through facts and subjects taught in silos, but through methods including project-based learning and collaborative group work.
That is undoubtedly an extreme. And other high performing systems, such as those in China, are maintaining a focus on traditional systems of knowledge alongside a greater focus on these newer competencies.
Creativity in particular is identified by numerous reports as a competence that will become crucial for success in workplaces where mundane, repetitive tasks will be removed by automation, and is one of the key qualities unlikely to be successfully replicated by machines.
As Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, notes: “in the future, talent, more than capital, will represent the critical factor of production”.
One of the inevitable consequences of technology removing routine and mundane tasks from many jobs is that workers will increasingly take on multiple roles.
For example, according to UK manufacturers organization EEF, companies preparing for the fourth industrial revolution are switching from single to multi-trades, such as electricians who are also mechanics.
Harvard University associate professor of education and economics David Deming argues that this multi-skilling will include intrapersonal and social skills (PDF document).
He has mapped the changing needs of employers from 1980 to 2012 and identified the important skills that will be required to thrive in the job market of the near future – arguing that so-called “soft skills” like sharing and negotiating will be crucial.
Deming points out that many jobs requiring only mathematical skills have been automated, but roles which combine mathematical and interpersonal skills (such as economists, health technicians, and management analysts) will continue to be in demand.
He also says that the modern workplace, where people move between different roles and projects, closely resembles pre-school classrooms, in which we learn social skills such as empathy and cooperation.
In that respect, today’s primary schoolchildren are already developing the abilities that will help them to thrive in the workplace of 2030.
The Global Education and Skills Forum is taking place on 17th and 18th March 2018 in Dubai, UAE, with the theme of “How do we prepare young people for the world of 2030 and beyond?” Register your interest here.