Given the rise of automation and its impacts on the current global workforce, how should schools prepare students for a future where change will be the new normal?
I’ve recently been helping a school district update its multiyear technology and digital learning plan, and this work has raised some interesting questions. Among those we’ve been considering is how, if at all, the district should adapt to better prepare its students for future jobs, many of which, most experts agree, don’t currently exist.
In 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute published its report Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained: Workforce Transitions in a Time of Automation and estimated that by 2030, when our current kindergarten students will be graduating high school, as many as 30 percent of the jobs in the current global workforce could become automated.
In 2018, the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report considered the outcomes of a “Fourth Industrial Revolution” where, by 2022, much of the work traditionally handled by humans is conducted by machines and algorithms.
These two reports state unequivocally that regardless of which career path one chooses, the impacts of an increasingly digital and automated world will affect us all. So, what should this mean for schools?
From the current literature and future-focused thought leaders, one finds a range of opinions — some in conflict with others — that schools should consider when addressing the question, “How should we adjust our focus to better prepare our students for the jobs of the future?”
Taken individually, each of these focus areas may well be worthy of schools’ attention as they work to prepare their students for the future unknowns. But given the conflicting advice of “experts,” educators may choose to simply hunker down, ignore the noise, and plow ahead in old and familiar ways.
A recent essay in The 74, “Preparing Students for the Uncertain Future: Why America’s Educators Are Ready to Innovate — but Their Education Systems Are Not,” does a fine job of summarizing the complex challenges educators now face, as well as offering some thoughtful solutions. In reviewing the current research on our future job market, the author groups the findings into four primary areas that educators should address:
If nothing else, it’s this last point that educators will be wise to consider. All signs point to change becoming the new normal. Our young people are scrambling to adapt to these uncertainties, perhaps more so than any previous generation. And it’s incumbent on our schools to provide them with the support they need.