In our rapidly changing world, we are seeing more and more automation in the workforce and that’s got some of us (okay, a lot of us) a little worried about what that means for humans. Tech experts are predicting that by 2030, technology could eradicate 2 billion jobs. That’s a scary concept if you’re a human who would like to continue to make a living. It’s even scarier when you realize that the trend will likely continue as your kids and grandkids are trying to get jobs and make a living themselves.
Predicting the future job market is nearly impossible but we know that we need to be preparing our kids for jobs that likely don’t even exist yet. Look at the exponential growth of technology and what that’s meant in just the past few decades. Twenty years ago, no one would have thought that “YouTube Influencer” would be an actual job title that generates more money than a lot of traditional jobs. Instead of preparing kids for the specific jobs of the future, what we can do is give them adaptable skills that they can apply to those careers with relative fluidity.
In the past 20 years, we’ve come pretty far in terms of realizing that there are more important ways to recognize smarts than just getting 100 per cent on a standardized test. It’s important to keep that in mind since a lot of the skills the workforce of the future will need to develop are more abstract and fluid. It seems that with technology doing the analytical side of things better than we ever could, humans need to be more, well, human.
The most important asset your child can develop to help them in the future is curating a library of learning strategies. You can’t possibly know everything but if you have the skills and techniques to learn a variety of new skills quickly and well as you require them, you’re set for pretty much anything.
Cognitive skills and focus
In this age of information overload something that is already crucial to existence is selective attention and focus. Having huge amounts of data thrown at us all the time can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. Learning how to pick out what is directly relevant to you, focus in on it and block out the white noise around you will only become more important as the stream of info just keeps coming and increasing in volume. Working memory is also important to prioritize and develop to keep that crucial information in your head and not lose it in the noise.
Meditation and mindfulness can improve those cognitive functions and teach the mind to remain calm and collected amid a constant avalanche of information. There are a number of apps that can teach mindfulness to both you and your child.
The Entrepreneurial mindset
Traditionally, when you ask a kid, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” you’re looking for a one-word answer that indicates a career path. The jobs of tomorrow won’t be so simple and we need to get our kids thinking about their own skills and how they can apply them to problems rather than a specific job they want.
An entrepreneurial mindset means creating value in the world using your own faculties and resources; seeing gaps and figuring out how to fill them; asking the right questions and then creating the answers. Instead of looking for a specific job, the workforce of the future will be looking for “opportunities.”
Strategic and creative thinking
Judgement, decision-making and fluency of ideas are key attributes that will make the most significant difference in the job market of the future. We need to reframe how we think about problems in order to teach our children to do the same. There is no longer “one right answer” (if that ever truly existed at all). Kids are going to need to develop the skill of coming up with several different ideas and solutions to one problem. Creativity and fluid thinking will be huge assets here. With automation becoming so prevalent, we need to be able to create the ideas behind it and decide what we need it to do for us.
How do I do that?
The school system is always working to catch up with technology so your kids probably won’t be learning and developing these skills as much as you might want at school. That means it’s likely going to fall to you to expand their thinking (isn’t that what parents are for?).
Education strategist Dwayne Matthews specializes in helping children succeed in an evolving digital world and he suggests that some of these skills are best learned using a good old piece of paper. Since fluidity of ideas is probably the singularly most important skill for your child to develop to be successful, he suggests brainstorming and creating “top ten” lists regularly. Just pick a topic and have your child — with coaching, if need be — come up with everything they can think of that relates to it. Exercises like this encourage them to focus in on a topic and use their previously acquired knowledge but also connect related (and seemingly unrelated) ideas. It also encourages the concept that there isn’t one right answer to every problem.