Vol. V No. 35 - Saturday August 26, - September 1, 2006
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ACADEMIA NUTS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Preparing for work in the future

LIST … getting bigger, getting better

Preparing for work in the future

Jon Hartmann,
counselor,
Prem Tinsulanonda International School

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 serious situation if, for example, you have just finished a 4 year computing degree and all of a sudden there are no jobs in this area.
The facts you should use to guess where the future jobs will be should be demographic statistics such as the age of the population. In countries with huge aging populations it is obvious that servicing the needs of retired people will provide many job opportunities. If the population is young then teaching will be expanding. The service industries employ the most people in first world countries while secondary industry and agriculture employ the most in the 3rd world or developing nations.
You might want to be an archaeologist but you must be realistic and ask, “Are there any jobs for archaeologists?” Meeting the job market with a set of suitable skills can ensure good employment potential. How can you ensure that in a changing world you are employable?
No matter who you are, where you are or what you do, rapid technology changes will have an impact on you. In a globalised world if you try to avoid these changes (e.g. Burma) it will impoverish yourself or your citizens. Knowledge is still power and life long learning gives knowledge. Only the lowest paid jobs today do not require a continual upgrading of skills like computer skills and communication skills.
Whatever job you are doing now, in 5 years time you will be doing it in a different and smarter manner. 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 from insurance, to loans, to investment to retirement. The skills he uses are totally different to the skills he needed to count money out. 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.
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 understood me. Preparing students for life in the 1980s or 1990s 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 3 years or less. What should students learn then? The answer is, I believe, a good basic summary of 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.
Two thousand years ago, Socrates said that a civilised man is one who can answer a rational question with a rational answer. Today a civilised 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 became obsolete after the middle ages. We don’t need human memory banks; 80 gigs of hard drive are 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 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 organisation.
Creative thinking:
An old friend of mine dropped out of a maths degree at university and worked for a time packing delivery trucks for a national mail and parcel courier company. He was a creative thinker. He did not see the cylinders and boxes in the same way to the “drones” he worked with. He experimented with different combinations of loading a truck and after a while came up with a solution to packing a truck that saved 20% 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 at upper management level. Show creativity and you will be employable.
No time:
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 therefore becomes not just desirable but essential! Graduates must hit the job floor running. Even with a master’s degree, if you sit around waiting to be told what to do you are not much use to anybody. Businesses and organisations 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 do not just get yourself knowledge, get yourself skills. For the rest of us it is a lifelong process of constantly reskilling.
Careers counsellors are often asked to pick the next booming industry that will take off and make millions. Students want to be already qualified and ready to go when it takes off. Should you study fibre 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 teamwork, learn creative thinking, learn communication skills, learn to use modern technology 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.


LIST … getting bigger, getting better

Ann R. Schechter, Special Educational Needs teacher, Lanna International School
Lanna International School has been hard at work preparing for the new school year. Returning students will notice immediately the new covering over the recreation area, sheltering students from sun and rain. But while it may be the most recognisable change it is certainly not the only one.
Volunteers from the University of North Texas have organised and installed a new library cataloguing system. This new computerised system will allow students and staff to use the library’s resources with great ease, and assist the school in tracking books and materials. Many thanks to our friends from North Texas!
Enhanced ability to use the library will support this year’s theme - Focus on Literacy. Reading and writing ability is the foundation of success in today’s hi-tech, global market society, and LIST takes the success of its students seriously. This year, activities and curriculum will focus on improving these two vital skills. Improved literacy will be the springboard for rising expectations the school has of both the student body and faculty.
Two new principals will greet the students in the morning. Beloved teachers, Mr. Randall and Ms. Ingrid are now the new elementary and secondary school principals. Their added administrative duties will improve the day to day running of their respective divisions allowing the Head Master to attend to the running of the school as a whole.
Students will also notice many more teachers on campus. Specialist teachers have been added to the faculty this year to better meet the needs of our secondary school students. These teachers will support Lanna’s already top rate classroom teachers and ESL (English as a Second Language) program, ensuring students receive the appropriate instruction.
Sometimes, however, a student has problems learning which go beyond ESL. To meet the needs of these students, LIST has brought on board a Special Education teacher. This teacher will assist the staff in identifying learning disabilities, create Individual Education Plans, work with individual students to improve their learning abilities, and function as a liaison between the school, the parents and therapeutic professionals.
Lanna International School cares about each and every one of its students, and these changes have all been made to improve their chances for success in school and beyond.
For more information, please contact the school at 053 806 230/1.



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