Virtual reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning and other emerging technologies will so greatly transform business that an estimated 85 percent of the jobs needed by 2030 have not been created, according to a recent report from the Institute for the Future. That uncertainty affects current students who will join the workforce in the next decade.
Despite the unpredictability, students can still learn to use collaboration software, video- and audio-editing programs, website design platforms, coding applications, and other digital tools that they will encounter in the workforce.
When it comes to career readiness, employing traditional approaches will not lead to different results, says Nicole Cobb, vice president of the guidance and career development division of the Association of Career and Technical Education.
“Change is inevitable, and the best thing we can teach our students is how to continually reinvent themselves, to be flexible, to be adaptable, and to have emotional balance,” says Cobb.
For example, the Hawaii Department of Education sets aside one hour every Friday in Honolulu schools for dedicated advisory time that bolsters career skills such as goal setting, persistence and grit.
“We then laid out a calendar for the entire year and said, ‘Here’s what these lessons are going to look like,’” says Cobb, who consulted with the district to develop an action plan. Activities include starting dialogues and discussing current events so students can share their opinions on matters important to them in a safe space and in a structured way.
“Half of your success in the workplace comes from your interpersonal skills and your project management skills, and your ability to persuade and make a sound argument based on data,” says Joseph South, chief learning officer for the International Society for Technology in Education.
At Hanover County Public Schools in Virginia, the new career readiness initiative starts in kindergarten and exposes students to future jobs, says Karla Allen, coordinator of counseling services.
“In the past, it’d be like, ‘It’s career day—we’re going to see career day!’ and that would be it for career exposure, but now we’re really embedding it into everything,” says Allen.
Students regularly discuss career interests in K5 classrooms to learn the concepts and language involved in job preparedness. They also access books, videos and other resources that cover career clusters. Middle schools now have dedicated career counselors who help facilitate a required career-investigations course in which students learn interdisciplinary skills. For example, sixth-grade math standards of learning are applied to an architecture and construction career cluster, and then counselors co-teach a lesson with a math teacher to show how math skills would be used in an architecture or construction job.
High school students participate in career interest inventories, and then get to connect with local professionals from within their clusters of interest. Soft skills, which are applicable to any job, are a constant emphasis, says Allen.
All grades take part in a college and career readiness week. One activity features each teacher wearing their college sweatshirt and talking about the pathway they followed to become an educator.
“We focus on being ‘life ready’ because we don’t know what life is going to look like for our students,” says Allen. “We frame it as ‘how do you want to impact the world?’ and then look at all the different ways they can accomplish that.”