Future proofing students with skills that really matter
The world as we know it has been completely changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The year 2020 will go down in history as a watershed moment—everything that happened before 2020 will be remembered as BCE (before COVID-19 era) and we now live in the CE (COVID-19 era).
Gone are the days when one trained for a job for 3-4 years and spent the rest of their life making a career in it. We live in an age where the average life expectancies have increased tremendously and people will continue to work for at least 60-80 years till they retire. This has given rise to the concept of the 60-year curriculum, an initiative at Harvard University which focuses on the different careers that each of us will have over our lifetimes.
According to Dr Chris Dede, Professor in Learning Technologies at Harvard Graduate School of Education and a central player in this initiative, in the future, most adults will have 5-7 careers and some of which don’t exist right now. The only way to prepare yourself for the future is to learn how to unlearn and relearn multiple times effectively. Being agile and rapidly able to reinvent yourself will be a prerequisite for a successful career.
That is the mindset students must adopt if they want to future-proof their careers. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has ushered in new technological innovations like machine learning and artificial intelligence which have led to a paradigm shift in skills required for work effectively. According to the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report 2018, by the year 2020 the top 10 skills that will be most required are all cognitive and social-emotional skills like Critical Thinking, Complex Problem Solving, People Management, Emotional Intelligence, Judgement and Decision Making. It is clear that students will have to commit to learning these foundational skills to survive and succeed in the modern world.
Organizations across the globe have also shifted to remote work almost overnight due to the lockdowns imposed by governments across the world to contain the pandemic. Many of us have been working from home over three months now. While only time will tell if these changes will last, we can be certain that the world of work may not ever go back to what it was previously.
This means students of today who will be professional tomorrow have to learn new ways of working — managing virtual teams and leading businesses remotely.
As people figure out the rituals that help them stay focused and productive while they work from home, everyone will have to build skills to work well with and get the best out of their teams —being empathetic to your teammates domestic issues, compassionate when dealing with interruptions by children, pets or parents, and listening actively when concerns are being shared.
In these uncertain times, embracing change and building resilience have become paramount. All of us are going to face several challenges, personally and professionally — pay cuts, furloughs, job losses, etc. The only way to deal with them is to learn to accept them, look at them as problems that need to be solved creatively, and look for ways to move forward.
The future of work is here. To survive and succeed in this new normal, students will have to master cognitive-social-emotional skills — the ability to think critically, communicate effectively, collaborate well and be creative. They will also need to embrace uncertainty and navigate change deftly. Last but not least, everyone will have to master the art of learning, unlearning and relearning regularly.
No matter what you do and where you work, these skills will matter. Set yourself on a path to success by building these foundational skills!
(Author Sanjay Deshpande is a Senior Curriculum Specialist at Harappa Education. Views expressed here are personal.)