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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Larson

Preparing Kids for the Future of Work: What Are We Waiting For?

Updated: Jul 30, 2022

School. College. Work. Growing up the path laid out before me was never questioned, it was simply an expectation. You go to school. You focus on grades and test scores so you can get into a good college. And that experience prepares you for your lifelong career.

My parents, like many of their generation, had lifetime careers. My Dad worked in finance at the same organization for 25 years. My Mom was a nurse and worked at the same hospital for 33 years. Can you imagine that today?

I graduated from college in 1994 (dating myself here I realize!). This was before Amazon. Before Google. And one year before Netscape’s infamous IPO which turned the Internet into a common household term.

The rapid rise of the “dot com” industry was the future for my generation, and I jumped into my first software startup right out of college. But times are changing again, and more rapidly than we could have ever imagined. So what’s the future hold for our children?

The Impact of the Pandemic

For years we’ve heard the rumors of robots coming for our jobs, or at least something to that effect. We’ve watched factory workers get replaced by automated assembly lines. The iPhone has basically given us the ability to have a computer in our pocket. We regularly use services from companies that didn’t even exist 20 years ago as we check our social media pages, order products online, or book a vacation rental across the country.

Then the pandemic hit. And 18 months later, we see its impact accelerating change faster than we ever thought possible.

Automation and artificial intelligence is being deployed faster than ever in warehouses, call centers and manufacturing plants to keep up with the increased demand of products and services. Positions for front line workers, and what we might consider traditional entry level jobs for our kids, are quickly disappearing.

Remote work is likely here to stay, in some form or other, as organizations evaluate the positions which require individuals to continuously be in close contact with each other. The concept of leaving your home every day to commute to an office is quickly becoming a symbol of pre-pandemic times.

And as we increase our use of ecommerce and other online activities, the logistics to move these products and services around the world is becoming an operational emergency.

With our future world of work changing right before our eyes, and our education system being challenged like never before, many parents are beginning to question if the schools we have today are the schools we need to prepare our kids for the future.

The Foundational Skills our Kids Need

Let’s face it. The traditional path of school-college-work that many of us experienced growing up in the 80s and 90s is not the only option for our kids today. From trade schools to gap years, tech certifications and microcredentials, there are numerous options, beyond the traditional four year college, for our kids to consider.

The bottom line - what will our future world of work require? Research shows the demand for manual and physical skills is on the decline, while the demand for social and emotional, and higher cognitive skills are growing.

A recent McKinsey report identified 56 foundational skills which they believe will help individuals be successful in the future. The list includes a set of cognitive and interpersonal skills which help distinguish humans from machines, increased competency of digital tools and resources, and self-leadership skills with an emphasis on flexibility and adaptability to our constantly changing workplaces.

How many of these are a focus at your child’s school? Which of these could you support at home?

As parents, we have a choice. We can wait for our schools to change. Or we can take advantage of the resources at our fingertips (aka the Internet) and start arming our kids today with the skills that will best prepare them for the future. From preschool to high school, it’s never too early to start.

Join the Conversation

We're excited to kick off our first blog of the school year with a focus on the future of work. Look for a new blog each week as we explore the different ways parents can be more actively involved in supporting their child’s learning journey and helping them develop the skills needed to succeed in the future.

About the Author

Jennifer Larson is an entrepreneur, charter school founder and mother to four children. Connect with her @startupjen.

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