Are our children’s job prospects bleak?

Principals Pen Wednesday, 21 Oct 2020

A question I was often asked as a child is, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ Were you asked the same question?

We don’t have to look far to know that many of today’s children are chasing jobs that may soon be rendered obsolete on account of technology. Examples of the many reports available include:

And the media has published multiple articles and opinion pieces. For example:

Technology eliminates jobs, but it doesn’t eliminate work. It just changes the type of work that will be available in the future. Blue-collar industries are on the decline, but service and creative industries are on the incline. For today’s children to get a foot in the door of these industries, they need a different set of skills than those that were most valued when you and I went to school.

Most adults experienced schooling under the factory model of education: the cookie-cutting, assembly-line model. This model produced like-minded graduates who were compliant and would follow step-by-step instructions with sincere uniformity. It served the First and Second Industrial Revolutions well, but the factory model of education does not prepare children for the future jobs market.

In this, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, employers are crying out for new fluencies. EQ (emotional quotient) and the CQ’s (cultural quotient, collaborative quotient, creative quotient, and curiosity quotient), are on equal standing with IQ (intelligence quotient). Collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, complex problem-solving, problem-finding, global awareness, intercultural sensitivity, adaptability, empathy and tenacity, alongside the ability to persuade and the ability to withstand persuasion, together with a compassionate heart for design thinking, are skills and characteristics that were once undervalued, but which will now secure employment.

Education must equip us for an uncertain future, but one lived for others and drenched in hope, gratitude and vision. (Phillip Heath)

Professor Yong Zhao writes, ‘Do we want our children to be catching up or leading the way?’ This question has influenced Living Faith’s educational philosophy. Instead of the factory model of memorising outdated information which can be sourced from Google, we set out to foster within students the entrepreneurial and interpersonal skills that will help them to thrive in their exponentially-changing future. Living Faith looks within and beyond the academic goals that were the sole priority of the past, and nurtures soft skills and an appetite for lifelong learning.

In light of this, how can we give our children something realistic to aspire to as far as the workforce is concerned? There is a simple solution. Instead of asking our children, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’, we can ask, ‘What problem do you want to solve in the future?’ or ‘How do you want to help others?’ Both of these questions, which have a design thinking foundation, align themselves with what we know about the future jobs market and set our children on the path to leading the way, instead of catching up.

- Jane Mueller, Principal