March 14, 2014

1.3 Future Work Skills

“…as educators we also know that the purpose of education is to prepare our students to become active participants in the workforce of the future. This provides us with another direction for framing our investigations of education in a digital world.” (Module 1.3 outline)

Future Work Skills Summary Map (retrieved from

Future Work Skills Summary Map (retrieved from

As I read through the Future Works Skills 2020 report, I was reminded of a conference I attended last year at Knox Grammar School titles “Creativity and Academic Excellence”.  The Keynote speaker was Dr Yong Zhao.  He spoke about creativity being disruptive, because it is NOT the norm.  He spoke about us all being born creative and curious and confident, and how schools can make us feel and therefore be less creative and curious and confident. (Sir Ken Robinson agrees).  He spoke about the need for us teachers to become more TOLERANT of disruption and differences – as they are often the seeds of creativity being sown.  He spoke about the emotional AND cognitive aspects of creativity, and how nowadays GROUP creativity is probably preferable to INDIVIDUAL creativity, which supports what many others are saying about collaborative learning communities.

He believes that education needs to embrace a new paradigm – one which values EVERY talent.  His belief is that we can’t all be great at EVERYTHING, but each of us CAN be great at SOMETHING.  Collaborative learning communities recognise and build on this belief.  He used the story of Austin’s butterfly to remind all of the creative listeners he had in his audience that our role as teachers is to help our creative children not to settle for mediocrity; that creating something innovative takes time, effort and discipline.

austins butterfly screenshot

(image retrieved from

The final part of his keynote addressed the need for education to acknowledge the creative “genius” of our students, and to foster it.  One of the ways to best do this, he suggested, is to encourage our students to ASK QUESTIONS.  He reminded us that asking questions and finding answers are NOT the same thing…if we are busy finding answers, we probably are not leaving ourselves enough time to ask questions.  And one of the questions that is of vital importance to our students and our education system is what does the future hold for these young people?

As the Future Works Skills report clearly showed in its opening statement about how pointless it is to predict what JOBS of the future will be, our time and efforts are better spent focussing on the SKILLS needed to work in the future.  As Dr Zhao says, our students can no longer EXPECT someone to hand them a job when they finish their formal education.  He describes this age as “an age of abundance”,  where we consume personalised, spritualised and psychological products; an age in which EVERY TALENT has become valuable.  He suggests we need to be developing an ENTREPRENEURIAL mindset in our students, a mindset that encourages them to CREATE their own jobs, rather than training for a job.  And this idea of entrepreneurship is not restricted to the domain of business – it could mean being a SOCIAL entrepreneur or a SPIRITUAL entrepreneur.

Traditional education practise is not going to help create entrepreneurs for the future workplace.  Traditional forms of assessment are not going to help measure student readiness for the future workplace.    Zhao presented some interesting data in one of his posts titled Test Scores vs. Entrepreneurship: PISA, TIMSS, and Confidence.  He looked at graphs of results of countries’ performances in PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), and compared that to their “perceived entrepreneurial capability” as measured by GEM (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor) and found that “…countries with higher PISA scores have fewer people who are confident in their entrepreneurial capabilities.”

Our challenge as educators today is to move away from content driven assessment practises, and start to develop more reliable assessment tools that measure SKILLS.  We need to start using and relying on more competency-based types of assessments, rather than relying solely on written assessments.  We need to make more connections between the data we are collecting and ASK QUESTIONS about the RELATIONSHIPS between those data sets, and consider what implications this has for us.