A significant percentage of today’s workforce is now working at jobs that didn’t exist twenty years ago. Technological advances have provided the greatest drivers prompting the changes in the nature of work. Considering that technology is always hastening to advance, there’s a high probability that the nature of work will also continue to change. This means that many of our kids will need to figure out how to train for jobs that don’t even exist yet.
This isn’t even the greatest challenge facing kids today. An even greater challenge: Experts at some of the world’s most prominent organizations, including the World Economic Forum, are predicting that automation technologies will most certainly reduce the numbers of employees required to do the world’s work. That means it is likely to be increasingly difficult for today’s kids to find viable work in the future.
We’ve already witnessed the rise of self-checkout service at retail stores and self-service food and beverage kiosks at casual dining establishments. By all appearances, we’re in the beginning stages of an automation revolution that will transform the entire way the world does business.
It’s unclear what the results of all this will be. Some experts predict that human workers will inevitably no longer be needed in the future. Many predict that the nature of work will simply change – and that in the future, humans will be able to focus on creative, compelling work, leaving the dangerous or tedious tasks for robots to handle. This will be the likeliest outcome in the near future as today’s kids transform into adults and enter the workforce.
So how do you empower your kids to gain the skills she’ll need to be successful at a job that doesn’t yet exist? This is one of the major challenges facing today’s parents.
This is a question that has been on my mind as I help my daughter prepare for her future. I’ve become uncomfortably aware that many of the historically “safe” career choices such as accountant, lawyer and paralegal are likely to be automated out of viability soon.
I find this to be a scary thought, and I won’t lie; I’m anxious for my daughter. It would be all too easy to fixate on my fear that she will choose the wrong career. Instead, I’ve decided to focus on the things I can actively do to help my girl develop the mindset and skills she needs for navigating an uncertain future. Here are some of the action items we came up with:
A Shift in Mindset Towards Lifelong Learning
When I graduated from college in the mid 1990s, I had classmates who were planning to go to graduate school – but they were in the minority. Amongst the others who weren’t continuing their education, the prevailing attitude was along the lines of “Hoorayyyy! We’re finished with school forever!”
Clearly, such an attitude isn’t going to be realistic for our kids in the future. To become and remain employable, today’s kids are going to have to learn how to stay current with technology. That is not a simple task – and it’s the one they’re going to have to continually work at. The task will remain with them long after they’ve finished their formal education.
Experts at the World Economic Forum report that employers, largely, are expecting the burden of the necessary “upskilling” to fall on employees. Some employers do plan to step up and bear the expense of training their employees to gain the skills needed to remain employable as technologies shift. However, many seem to expect that employees are the ones who will need to take responsibility for gaining the skills their employers want them to possess.
With this understanding of the situation, I’m trying to instill a greater love of learning in my daughter. I’m hoping she will have a desire to continue educating herself long after her graduation from high school, college or even graduate school.
Understanding the Greatest Existing Sources of Change
Before parents can empower their teens to gain the skills they’ll need to compete in the job market of the future, they need to understand which technologies are driving the greatest changes in the nature of work. According to the World Economic Forum, there are 4 specific technologies that will drive business growth in the immediate future. They are:
- The widespread availability of high-speed mobile internet
- Artificial intelligence
- Big data analytics
- Cloud computing technologies
Knowing the significance of these 4 specific technologies, I have been encouraging my daughter to learn the basics about them. If they turn out to be areas that interest her, she can continue to learn more about them – but even if they don’t interest her at all, I want her to at least have a foundational understanding of them.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) is a well-respected non-profit organization that operates on a global basis. CIPD’s stated purpose is to promote the art and science of the management and development of people. This organization makes a variety of human resources training courses available, and they also develop reports detailing important aspects of personal development that can be helpful for job seekers and employers.
CIPD published an extensive research report on the topic of “Volunteering to Learn”. This report provides valuable insights on the current research that is available on the links between volunteering and learning.
While human resources professionals are the intended market for the information contained in this report, the report also holds important takeaways for us parents. It focuses much attention on explaining the many ways young people can benefit from volunteering.
For starters, volunteering is a huge confidence booster – and the confidence a child gains from volunteering can be directly beneficial in later life, whether the teen chooses to first pursue higher education or a career. According to the report, there is also a demonstrable correlation between volunteering and the volunteer’s high performance in core competencies such as communication, teamwork and problem analysis – all of which are skills that employers covet. Additional benefits include networking opportunities that could result in a greatly expanded professional network, not to mention a greater variety of future career and other opportunities.
Any sort of volunteering could potentially be worthwhile; but it’s worth investing some effort to help your kids discover volunteer opportunities that are at the intersection of their interests and those that could have a direct relevance to her professional interests.
Encourage Creativity and Originality
Experts at the World Economic forum are predicting that “human skills” such as creativity and originality will retain their value or perhaps even increase in value as the fourth industrial revolution continues to unfold.
There are numerous ways a child can work at developing her creativity. The one our family has decided to focus on is music instruction, for a number of reasons.
My daughter has an interest in music. As far as career skills go, music might seem like a frivolous interest. Most employers outside the entertainment industry won’t care if your child has ever taken music classes.
Nevertheless, we’re discovering that music training actually can result in the development of skills that employers covet. Scientific research reveals that studying music benefits the musician in ways beyond just the obvious musical skills gained in the process.
Researchers at Northwestern University have determined that music instruction can help to accelerate a teen’s neurodevelopment. In fact, there are significant differences in the brain structures of musicians and non-musicians. One noteworthy difference is that the network of nerve fibers connecting the two sides of the brain – the corpus callosum – tends to be much larger in people who know how to play music.
Research demonstrates that musical training also boosts other important skills such as literacy, memory and spatial reasoning.
I think music instruction has been a useful means for my daughter to express and develop her creativity. Your child might want to try it too, or she might prefer to choose a different creative outlet. Employers tend to value creative thinking and problem solving skills; so creative writing, art, photography, theater or any other creative activity could be excellent vehicles for creative expression if music isn’t appealing to your child.
The important thing is that your child has ample opportunities to develop her creativity in a way that engages her interest. The skills and other benefits she gains from it are likely to remain with her in her future career, whichever path she chooses to pursue.
2-Minute Action Plan for Fine Parents
I invite you to take a few moments to ponder the following questions:
- Am I creating enough opportunities for my child to develop the love of lifelong learning?
- What steps can I take to empower my child to better understand the technologies that are shaping the future?
- What creative pursuits does my child enjoy? What can I do to encourage her to further develop her creative potential?
Ongoing Action Plan for Fine Parents
Realize that a shift in your own mindset might be necessary. Acknowledge that things have changed since you entered the workforce. If your own thinking is frozen in the past, you are not fully equipped to empower your child to develop the skill set she needs for success in the workplace of tomorrow.
Try to wrap your head around the changes. Avoid encouraging your child to pursue a career that is destined to become redundant. If you don’t understand which careers are likely to become redundant, see page 9 of this report.
Encourage your child to read more about technology — plus any topics that are directly relevant to her interests. Help her to find informative and interesting books, articles and other resources that are appropriate for her reading level.
Help your child research the volunteer opportunities that are available to her in your community. Determine if any of them seem as if they would be a good fit for your child’s interests and abilities. Decide if any of them would be viable and worthwhile for your family to commit to.