Increasingly educators are reflecting on the role of education in preparing young people for the future world of work. With the view that many roles are (and will continue) moving to automation, there is a concern that the way we teach young people about work and careers does not match up in preparing them for some of the changes we will see across the way we work, for the next generation.
With that in mind, what exactly are the skills that young people, or indeed all of us, need to be thinking about and developing to help in meeting the demands of a changing workforce? The World Economic Forum surveyed Chief HR Officers for a view on what they thought some of these key skills might look like:
1. Cognitive Flexibility
This is the ability to adapt cognitive processes – ways of thinking – to match fast paced, changing circumstances and situations. It can be linked to the ability to take on unexpected challenges, and think around them fast, without negativity. One way young people can develop this capacity is through proactive engagement in team activities – sports or music groups, for example – that require them to rely on and adapt to the behaviour of others, in order to achieve desired results.
Negotiation is defined as ‘discussion in order to reach an agreement’. If you’ve ever sat in a meeting with several different strong opinions all trying to be heard, you’ll know that negotiation is a key, and sometimes difficult, skill to master. Negotiation is an important one to develop as, much like cognitive flexibility, it allows adaptation and the ability to listen to others, communicate effectively and draw cohesion in mixed discussions. Encouraging healthy debate in the classroom, and providing opportunities to discuss complex issues – either inside or outside the classroom – is a great way to help build this skill in young people.
3. Service Orientation
This is described as the ability and desire to anticipate, recognise and meet others’ needs, sometimes even before those needs are articulated. In a work environment, this often means being fully aware of how your role fits into a larger team and company dynamics, and what impact you can have. It’s awareness for the self, and your work, the positive impact you can have, and awareness for potential issues or support that might arise within the wider context of your role and team. Giving young people ownership and responsibility over their learning, team projects and team building – again inside, and outside the classroom – can all help to build this as a genuine skill.
4. Decision Making
Decision making has been valued as one of the top ranking skills amongst employers – it demonstrates a strong understanding of your role, initiative and the value you can bring to your workplace. Decision making fits in nicely with the ability to work autonomously, and allows employers to have confidence in your capacity to do the work that needs to be done. A lot of the current ways of educating young people don’t lend themselves well to building this skill and taking responsibility for their work, but this is changing. Providing young people with the opportunity to take ownership and responsibility for their learning, in productive and proactive ways, helps them to develop decision making skills.
5. Emotional Intelligence
Rarely do we educate young people, or even adults, about emotions and their role in our lives. Emotional intelligence is a crucial skill to develop at an early stage, not only for an individuals own self awareness and ability to deal with difficult emotions, but to also handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. This is a key factor in building professional relationships in the workplace where we are often faced with working closely with individuals we properly wouldn’t otherwise associate with.
6. Team Coordination
Team coordination is defined as ‘the unification, integration, synchronisation of the efforts of group members so as to provide unity of action in the pursuit of common goals’. While we try to build team skills in young people through various group work in education, this can take on a whole new level in the workplace when individuals don’t always have shared goals and values in the long run. Activities outside the classroom can be useful in building this capacity, and adding new levels of thinking when it comes to working in teams.
Some people are born leaders, others are made – or so the saying goes. While not everyone will aspire to leadership of others, leadership doesn’t necessarily have to mean management. It can encompass a variety of skills that bring value to a workplace, for example being passionate and knowledgeable about your chosen role/industry. Leadership comes in many forms and it’s the broader set of skills around this – clear communication, honesty, fairness, good judgement, passion – that we should be working to build as a future skill.
Most children have innate creativity – they come up with some genuinely wonderful ideas and questions. Somewhere down the line the education systems seems to educate a lot of it out them. A creative mind allows room for asking questions, thinking outside the box and coming up with solutions – all good things in the workplace, be it a creative industry or not. One way to build this skill is encourage young people to ask questions and to ask questions of their ideas. Use open ended – how, what, why, where, when – to help develop creative thinking.
9. Critical Thinking
Another important skill, especially when it comes to things like judgement making. Critical thinking means evaluating, analysing and seeking a variety of information sources and reference points to form a solid, well thought out decision or opinion. It means not taking the first piece of information you find as the ‘status quo’ and questioning different issues. This is a great skill for the work place, as it allows individuals to add value to things like process improvement, quality and consistency in work delivery. Again, building this skill in young people can come in the form of asking open questions – ‘why and how do you think/know that’ are often good ones.
10. Problem Solving
Problem solving can be seen as a result of some of the other skills listed above and is a great skill to encourage, for life as well as the workplace. Improving problem solving skills can be done by changing up the way we deliver and work with young people, taking them out of familiar environments for their learning and using team projects to switch up how we want them to deliver back to us their learning.
This list is not exhaustive. It will continue to change and develop as the landscape of the working world continues to evolve, but it’s a great starting point and food for thought when looking at how we engage with young people, and the broader skills we can help them to develop today, that will help them in the future.
photo by: karin