There has been some interesting research carried out recently named ‘Humans Wanted’. It looks at the quiet crisis happening in job markets all around the globe. The research acknowledges that yes, automation is taking over many roles: mostly ones that are highly repetitive in nature. Yet it addresses the reality that humans will actually be more essential for many jobs of the future, especially jobs that are not even defined yet.
Over the next decade, our world will be tasked with solving some of the most pressing issues it has ever faced, including climate change, wealth gaps and health costs in rapidly aging societies. It’s only through building a strong foundation for the new skills economy – investing in our youth and supporting lifelong learning programs for our existing talented workforces – that we can ensure our nations and people are ready to take on a turbulent tomorrow.
So how do we prepare students to thrive? What are these ‘human skills’ they need for a variety of positions and roles and not just a single career path?
1. Critical thinking. The risk of automation is high for jobs that require repetition, like data entry and even some data analysis. However, critical thinking — the ability to make strong human judgments based on that data — is still an invaluable skill. There are a lot of traits that feed into the skill as well, including strong empathy, perception and reasoning.
2. Coordination. Understanding that workplaces succeed when everyone works together in harmony can be one of the strongest ways to add value. Workplaces of the future will seek an employee who is able not just to get their work done, but to do it in a way that respects the time of their colleagues and timelines of their projects.
3. Social perceptiveness. Like it or not, a job is driven by relationships. Knowing how to navigate these relationships can separate a good prospective employee from a great one.
4. Active listening. Though it may seem like common sense, concentrating on what someone is saying — rather than just hearing it — is a real differentiator among candidates.
5. Complex problem-solving. Innovation will be one of the most sought-after abilities in the future. Problems will arise in the workplaces of tomorrow that we can’t even envision today, and innovative thinkers who are able to find unique solutions will be able to put their businesses on the path to success.
In order to nurture these skills in your students, before you even get to the education piece, the environment needs to be conducive to learning. Schools and classrooms need to be welcoming and inspiring. The students need to actually want to be there. The top priority is to create flexible learning spaces that are student-centered. That means shifting away from the previous century’s hierarchical layout of rows of fixed desks with the teacher in a stationary position.
To set the scene and create an inspiring learning space, start by removing unnecessary clutter or visual distraction. Then rearrange the furniture to create a variety of areas for different needs and objectives – needs such as quiet reading, one on one learning, group collaboration and creative projects. Children are actually very good at self-selecting how they best engage, focus and learn if you give them different seating and standing options. Make the space beautiful, let in natural light, add some plants. Besides this being ‘nice’, beauty can push back against the effects of poverty, it can be an equalizer and inspire new dreams and ways of thinking. Beauty is good for learning, and students need to experience beauty in order to grow to their full potential. Include the students as much as possible in the arrangement and rearrangement of their classroom, let them feel ownership over the space.
All these factors and the team cooperation needed to make a student-centered environment then encourages and allows the development of the ‘human skills’ shown above. The teacher is now not at one end of the room hoping their students are retaining the information being recited to them. They have instead created an environment where it’s possible for their students to be actively engaged, to feel a sense of belonging and equality, and they are in a position to make eye contact, listen and contribute. This is how we’ll empower the generation of tomorrow to gain the skills they need to thrive today and in the future.