Preparing People for the Future

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As futurists, it may be no surprise that we believe talent management and world class learning will differentiate the winners and losers in the emerging future. However, the growing demand for people with the skills required to navigate the next futures of work and the workplace, requires nothing short of a revolution in the educational system.

From early stages and school, through to higher education and adult learning, we need a fundamental rethink. Fortunately, several promising experiments are already underway at every level, and a range of initiatives are being developed to try to reform education and prepare people for the future.

According to the World Economic Forum the skills likely to see the highest demand for the next five years are focused on softer, more generic attributes like creativity, emotional intelligence, coordinating with others, and cognitive flexibility. The problem is how to help people develop these skills.

Current ed-tech initiatives offer interesting new models of learning but it is too early to assess if they will succeed in contributing to the development of any of these skills. Alt school, for example, gives student´s flexibility to adjust curricula and personalize their learning paths. This initiative sounds very interesting, but it fails to help students develop skills related to collaborative working such as communication, coordinating with others and emotional intelligence. Another example is MOOCs where students have flexible content available everywhere. Unfortunately, knowledge availability does not ensure understanding, comprehension, and creative thinking. Hopefully these approaches will evolve over time to address the soft skills challenge.

So how do we close the gap when future workforce scenarios are changing rapidly and the demand for relevant skills is becoming ever more urgent. Here are three possible solutions to help the transition process:

  1. Teacher as facilitators: A key role of teachers nowadays should be oriented to promoting interaction between students. Knowledge is readily available for students online, and social skill training needs to be prioritized and happen over time with consistence practice. A teacher´s role in social skill development could include facilitating students’ in learning to communicate and solve problems with others; teaching collaborative approaches to achieve common goals and resolve conflicts; and helping student develop a sense of empathy with each other.
  2. Organizations: The design of organizations and work should enable creativity and innovation. This can be done by encouraging and incentivizing employees to apply foresight techniques, innovation tools, and design thinking approaches to develop execute solutions to persistent and emerging problems. Greater emphasis should be placed on collaborative interdisciplinary projects combining employees from different organizational areas – e.g. logistics, administration, marketing – to tackle complex problems.
  3. Education institutions as accelerators: With tech solutions and startups being at the core of innovation, education institutions need to place greater emphasis on teaching entrepreneurship and innovation courses to help students learn structured approaches that can be valuable in any job setting. Basic knowledge about how to detect market issues, design and test solutions, and gather customer experience insights are essential to building successful startups and performing almost any role within and organization.

We have a stark choice – we can either change the way we prepare our children for the future or apologize to them in advance for blocking the path.

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