Over the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about preparing students for the 21st Century. There's also been a lot of discussion about 21st Century Skills and how we need to make sure our students have those skills when they graduate. I don't disagree for one second that there are new skills needed by students that didn't exist 5 or 10 years ago, but I also think we need to keep in mind that there are skills students will need that we don't even know about yet. I remember being at a conference a few years ago and listening to Ian Jukes present the keynote. He was talking about a future that doesn't exist. Jobs that would be there for our students that don't even exist yet. How do we prepare kids for these? The jobs now that didn't exist years ago are being filled by eager, hard working, and smart people. Don't you think the same will occur in the next 10 years? I think so.

What got me thinking about this was something I saw on the side of the road on a drive to visit my parents a few weeks ago. As I was driving through a construction zone on the freeway (who hasn't this summer), I saw the construction guys on the side of the road and wondered who will be filling these jobs in the future? Are they going to be the kids in the middle of their class with no desire/money/opportunity to attend college? Certainly there will be many high tech jobs in the future where 21st Century Skills will be needed, but what about the other jobs? What about the worker fixing our highways, the electricians/plumbers, the manager at Burger King? In some of these cases, the skills they need are taught by the unions or corporations at various training centers. Do we need to prepare these future professionals with the same 21st Century Skills as the teachers, lawyers, doctors, and business professionals? What about the person checking you out at the grocery store, the person who works at Wal-Mart? Will these workers be the basic and minimal kids of today? There is now and always will be a wide variety of jobs for our students. Some will excel and others will not. Some will drive to be the best and others will be happy working elsewhere in a low end job.

My question is, how can we meet the needs of all of these students? Do we prepare them for a job or do we prepare them for a career? Can we prepare them for a career or job that doesn't exist yet? What skills are needed? Hmmmmm.

4 comments

  1. Mrs. LaChance // August 4, 2008 at 5:27 PM  

    Recently, I was talking with my mom about how I'd like for my daughter to be kinda nerdy like her mom (ha ha). Anyway, she said that the key to doing that was to allow exploration. And then she said "at least that was true for your generation". That really got me thinking about how my generation will be different than my daughters Will exploration still be the key? Truth is, I'm not sure, but I do know that the things my mother taught me (and didn't know she had until this conversation) will carry with me forever and I am who I am because she let me explore. I recall if I had a question, she would tell me to go look it up-before the internet it was quite boring, but now I LOVE to hop online and find answers to my own questions. I was also the kid that played with all the little science kits, etc. I think that exploration might still be important in the future. If you have the mind to explore and find answers, I believe you'll be successful in any job.

  2. Jennifer // August 4, 2008 at 5:55 PM  

    If you go to "our" local Walmart -- those jobs will not be replaced by people, but by machines........

    And that is when it gets interesting -- because as you said, we have no ideas will be available for our students. Smiles, as I am sure that my teachers way back in the 70's never thought to offer me training in Tech Support and Network Help.

    When our students (lets go as far back as we can and say our Kindergarten students) look towards their future careers -- what will they see?? Sure, a lot will want to be firemen, cowboys, (hmmm will astronaut even be a choice???), and all the givens......but what will really be the jobs offered then?

    We have to offer our kids the AVAILABILITY OF OPTIONS on a myriad of levels. We have to offer options to our students to embrace versatility yet be highly aware of their strengths!! We have to model collaboration skills, writing skills, and verbal skills. But most of all, we have to show an excitement for the unknown.

    I don't know how much will change in the next 15 years.....and I bet there still might be road workers and Wal Mart greeters......but I know there will be a LOT more jobs we can't even imagine right now.

    Thanks for the post, Chad, I enjoyed it.

    Jen

  3. loonyhiker // August 7, 2008 at 9:27 AM  

    This reminds me of when I was a student in the 70s and I read the book 1984. I thought that it was so far fetched and in the future but now look back and amazed how prophetic it was. As teachers, we need to prepare for the impossible because if we help the students dream for the impossible it might become a reality. I believe if we help our students stay current with what is going on in the world around us regarding careers and technology, we will help prepare our students to go on to the next level when necessary, even if we aren't there to help them.

  4. Mrs. LaChance // August 7, 2008 at 4:11 PM  

    I read this comment from Jen: "But most of all, we have to show an excitement for the unknown" and I was reminded of teachers in my school. The older ones are TERRIFIED of what they don't know. They don't want to admit to their students that they don't know and anything they don't know, they just set it aside (typically technology falls into that category). I think it is something that, in their generation, they really didn't learn. Accept and embrace the unknown-what a great skill to have!

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