Getting a Jump on the Future: conceiving education for the jobs of tomorrow

Riding on your mother’s back while she gathered food for dinner was the schooling of our ancestors. The task of educating, in the infancy of civilization, mainly served to pass down a tribe’s discovered methods of survival from one generation to the next. 

And, if we take a moment to think about this, we actually haven’t changed much. What has drastically changed is how we survive and relate to the world. We continue to need to see a demonstration of the tasks we will later have to perform in our job positions. Education has served these needs by transforming and expanding according to the growing complexity of the societies we live in and increasing demands they place on us. 

The problem arises when we aren’t quite sure what jobs we are going to need in 20-30 years and what professions, trades, and skills will accompany this landscape. The (r)evolution of the economy towards one that is knowledge-driven compels those who play a role in the education system to envision the needs of this new era, which has already begun and that we are just starting to understand. 

The future is more human: 

The fear of losing jobs to automation and robotisation of production methods is not unwarranted. Experts predict that 40-60% of existing jobs will become automated. Knowing that this is a reality allows us to tackle the problem from a different angle: in a world where manual jobs that can be automated are in fact being automated, and where people will no longer be required to fulfil them, doing something that only a human being can do is where education and work need to focus. 

“Soft” skills such as critical thinking, resilience, imagination, teamwork, communication, adaptability, etc., no longer represent an opportunity to improve your CV; they are increasingly becoming the difference between keeping up with the job market and falling behind.  

The fact that we don’t know what jobs will exist in the coming decades, in addition to being an unprecedented certainty, forces us to become familiar with and internalise the concept of life-long learners. Up-skilling and re-skilling steal the show among HR trends that keep the working population active despite the major technological and job market changes we’ve seen since deciding to pursue a given degree. 

The Education R(Evolution) 

The system in place today began as a way to supply factories with a good workforce: obedient, disciplined, and with sufficient knowledge to perform the tasks assigned. 

We understand that the present and, moreover, the future of work differs from this reality; hence, although education has evolved, a radical transformation is needed in terms of how we conceive teaching and the outcomes thereof. 

The education revolution is underway. The problem we face is the scale. For the past 3 years, Hundred has held a summit that convenes the 100 most notable cases in educational innovation. The number of small initiatives that seek to narrow the gaps between what we have and what we will need are many; the challenge is scaling these ways of conceiving education and institutionalising them, managing to democratise skills and new ways of working that we will need in the near future. 

When we stop to take a look at these initiatives, it’s easy to recognise the terms “design thinking” and “human-centred design” we so often see at the forefront of business innovation. This new way of conceiving problems and their solutions appears to be key to steering the education that will prepare future generations of workers. 

“Our task is to educate [our students’] whole being so they can face the future. We may not see the future, but they will and our job is to help them make something of it” 

Sir Ken Robinson