Jon Hartmann, College
Predicting what will be needed in the future is a
dangerous occupation. Most predictions in the past have been totally wrong!
Today we can make well informed educated guesses about where the future jobs
will be but there is always an element of risk involved. We could be wrong!
This becomes a very serious situation if for example you have just finished
a four year computers degree and all of a sudden there are no jobs in this
area. Meeting the job market however with a set of suitable skills can
ensure you have good employment potential at all times. How can you secure
yourself these skills in such a changing world ?
The modern situation.
No matter whom you are, where you are or what you do,
rapid technology changes will be impacting on you. In a global world if you
try to avoid these changes (e.g. Myanmar) it will impoverish you or your
Knowledge is still power, life long learning gives the
knowledge. Only the lowest paid jobs today do not require continual
upgrading of skills such as computer skills and communication skills.
Whatever job you are doing now, in five years time you will be doing it
different and smarter. A friend who started working as a bank teller 20
years ago is now the manager of a team that services all the financial needs
of clients like insurance, loans, investment and retirement. The skills he
uses are totally different to the skills he needed to count out money.
Everything in the banking industry has changed! He has had to continually
upgrade his skills. The first way to ensure you are employable is to
continually upgrade your knowledge and skills through Lifelong learning.
Schools and students
How should schools and students adjust to this new world
where massive amounts of knowledge are available at the press of a button?
Perhaps the worst way to prepare students is to teach them massive amounts
of rote learned content or to teach them skills that will soon be obsolete.
I met a student recently who proudly told me they knew all about Windows 1.2
after studying it at University a few years ago. “Well that is useful”,
I sarcastically answered but I don’t think he got it. Preparing students
for life in the 1980’s or 1990’s might make for good students but is
this giving them the kind of help they need? Some things never change but
the job situation is not one of them. It changes! How do you prepare
yourself and students for the future then?
Clearly, it is impossible to be totally informed on any
one field of knowledge. Human knowledge is doubling every three years or
less. What should students learn then? The answer is I believe good basic
summary knowledge and processes. By processes I refer to the means of
gaining information they need in every subject they do. Schools can give
students much practice in this but the teacher’s role has to change to be
a facilitator of knowledge rather than a repository of it. To process
information( make sense of it), one must first access it (research, take
notes, view, listen, record) and then having made sense of it (processing
through discussion, critical thinking) one must present it in an
intelligible fashion (reports, projects, essays, talks). There is still a
role for some rote learning but much less than ever before.
Socrates said 2000 years ago that a civilized man is one
who can answer a rational question with a rational answer. Today a civilized
person is one who can present a rational summary from a multitude of facts
and sources. Just learning facts is as obsolete as copying from a board. The
world no longer needs human photocopiers. They were obsolete after the
middle ages. It doesn’t need human memory banks. 80 gig of hard drive is
better and more reliable.
What the world needs are communicative people who,
working in a team, can process information, make sense of it and act with
initiative to use it. Education today is then the extremely exciting and
challenging task of preparing students for this. I would argue that good
education has always prepared students with the above skills. Students who
develop the above skills will be keenly sought after by any organization.
An old friend of mine dropped out of a Math degree at
University and worked for a time packing delivery trucks for a National
courier mail and parcel company. He was a creative thinker. He saw the
cylinders and boxes different
to the “drones” he worked with. He experimented with different
combinations to loading a truck and after a while came up with a solution to
packing a truck that saved 20 percent of floor space. It saved the company
over 1 million dollars a year. He had not rote leaned his job like the
people he worked with. He processed the information and presented a rational
analysis of the many bits of information he received. People like this are
valuable to every business and at every level of the business not just a
CEO’s. Show creativity and you will be employable.
No one has time anymore. Education today must not only
give students the necessary knowledge for a specific job, it must also give
them experience in that job. Once upon a time only a few degrees required
Internships, now most of them do. This is because middle management has
largely disappeared and few bosses have the time to train staff. Work
Experience becomes therefore not just desirable but essential!
Graduates must hit the job floor running. Even with a
Masters Degree, if you sit around waiting to be told what to do you are not
much use to anybody. Businesses and organizations want people who can take
the initiative and know what to do without having a long and expensive
training session. The lesson for students in this is don’t just get
yourself knowledge, get yourself skills. For the rest of us it is a lifelong
process of constantly re-skilling.
What area should I get skilled in?
Careers counselors are often asked to pick the next
booming industry that will take off and nake millions. Students want to be
all ready qualified and ready to go when it takes off. Should you study
fiber optics or computers? Who can really tell? My best advice is to follow
your pathway of choice, one that you love, are good at and that fits in with
your values. Within that pathway develop the skills that will make you a top
employee. Learn flexibility, learn team work, learn creative thinking, learn
communication skills, learn to use modern technology very well and above all
learn to work long and hard.
Whatever you study, these skills will make you employable in the future.
You may be lucky and strike a booming area just at the right time and make
millions, you might not! The bottom line is that you will always have a job.