Our Children, Education and the Future of Work

Posted on November 17, 2017
by FeliciaOctocog

You don’t have to go far these days to find an article, data, conference or book about the Future of Work. It is clear that the way we work and live is poised to go through a major change as robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and genetic engineering (among other disruptive innovations) become more prevalent in our society. There are differences of opinions on the makeup, magnitude and timing of this change, but what is widely agreed upon is that our children entering school now will experience a world of work that is going to be very different from ours when they enter the workforce 15 – 20 years from now. Because no one precisely knows what that world might look like, our students need to be curious, adaptable, perseverant, and willing to learn new things and our schools and youth serving organizations need to change its pedagogy to give students time in school to develop these skills. Just like our factory workers of 25 years ago who had to move from hand assembly to advanced robotics so too will our children have to adapt and make major shifts in their workplace to stay relevant and employable. Architects needed to make the transition to CAD and accountants to QB, SAP and Oracle. Many did and many did not. Those that could not or would not were left behind or had to make a transition into different work, or not work at all.

So what is different? If our generation figured it out so will our children, right? Maybe. Many experts believe the speed of change will far outpace what our generation saw. There is a statistic that has become frequently quoted that 60% of the jobs our elementary-aged children will see when they graduate do not exist today. And, it is possible that the number of jobs will not keep up with the demand for them as the workplace becomes more “efficient” through advanced technology. So, our children need to be willing to learn new things and adapt quickly.

So, how is that taught? It is by teaching student agency; that is, empowering youth to be masters of their own destiny. Young people with high levels of agency do not respond passively to their circumstances; they tend to seek meaning and act with purpose to achieve the conditions they desire in their own and others’ lives.

To do this, we need to allow for more personalized learning, give students more youth voice and choice in how they learn and give them space to experiment, fail and persevere. In this way, we teach our students that in the real world things get complicated and when they do, they rarely work the first time. It is only through one’s ability to analyze, adapt, take initiative, collaborate and persevere that success happens. How does learning look?
1. Project-based learning: When given a topic to study, students select some part of the topic to study (presumably one that interests them), becomes expert in that topic, prepares a presentation (this could be artistic piece, a model, a photographic exhibit, etc.) and then teaches it to the rest of the class. Students learn to take critiques and go back to revise their presentation.
2. Entrepreneurship: This does not just mean starting a business but being able to identify a problem to solve or a situation to improve and being able develop and/or lead an initiative, partnership or business to address it.

At LEAP we are working towards this vision of a student-centered education that not only advances student agency and builds 21st Century skills but makes important career connections and builds social capital for our students.