How to FUTURE PROOF your kids
Act now to ready youngsters for jobs that don’t yet exist, writes Mercedes Maguire
Kids will need a bigger step-up than we did
F red Cruwys is five. He’s interested in cars, building things and animals. But when this preschooler enters the workforce in 2030, the skills he will need to get a good job will be vastly different to those of today. He may well end up in a job that hasn’t even been thought of yet, according to a report released this week. At the very least, he will need a good understanding of technology, along with creativity and good communication skills.
“I would like to think he can be whatever he wants to be,” says his mum, Tanya Cruwys, from Coffs Harbour. “But, to be honest, kids today will need a bigger step-up than we did or our parents did.”
Preparing our kids for the world has never been more critical. Educators agree kids need a good base in academics, emotional resilience, technology, financial savvy and even foreign languages in a way previous generations did not. And they say we need to start early if we are to futureproof them.
Toormina Community Preschool director Kerrie Stichbury says the way under-fives are taught has changed markedly in the last 20 years.
“We give children more responsibility now and involve them in the decision-making process in a way that has never been done before,” she says.
“Twenty years ago we would have set the learning program and it would have been a theme-based curriculum. But now, it’s interestbased, which means we take into account what children are interested in because research shows children engage and learn better when they have an interest in the subject.”
Just as technology is a part of everyday life, so it is in the preschool world, she adds. The centre has a projector in place of a white board, the children have access to iPads and computers and often document their learning with photos they take themselves. “It’s important we embrace technology ... but we use it as an additional learning tool and as part of the curriculum; it doesn’t take over,” Stichbury says. “Most of our preschoolers are already familiar with technology; we’re not really introducing them. In fact, they often have a greater understanding of technology than we do.” The preschool’s role, Stichbury adds, is to work in partnership with parents to foster a love of learning that will benefit kids beyond the start of school. “There’s a lot more to school readiness than being familiar with the alphabet and numbers these days,” she says. “There will always be a place for traditional learning, but we also see social and emotional readiness as paramount when they start school.” The new report, The Future Of Work: Setting Kids Up For Success, was commissioned by the National Broadband Network (NBN) and outlines what the job landscape will look like in 2030. It shows future jobs will be divided into three categories: 1. Future jobs: Those that may not exist yet but will focus on digital specialisation and technology skills, eg a robot polisher. 2. Changing jobs: Roles we are familiar with today but which will be done in a different way, eg a doctor who uses technology for remote medical testing.
3. Fading jobs: High manual jobs that will be replaced by automation over time, eg petrol pump assistant and bank teller.
“This concept of investing in our kids’ future is important because the world won’t look like it does now when preschoolers enter the work force in 2030,” says Peter Gurney, NBN general manager of state corporate affairs.
“The digitisation of traditional jobs will see the biggest changes, and we are already seeing this in e-health. We recently did a trial with the CSIRO where an ophthalmologist in Perth was able to carry out eye tests with members of a remote Aboriginal community using a highdefinition camera on their end.” T here is no denying the important role technology will play in the future. Within the next five years alone, at least 90 per cent of the workforce will need a basic level of digital literacy and 50 per cent will need higher tech skills such as programming and software development, according to the Foundation for Young Australians.
But educators say teaching kids social and emotional skills to see them through school and beyond is just as important.
St Catherine’s School in Waverley now has a dedicated director to lead their Positive Psychology program for children from kindergarten to Year 12. The school’s headmistress, Julie Townsend, says the focus has moved away from teaching kids self-esteem to arming them with emotional resilience.
“In the past 20 years, parents and schools have been teaching children about self-esteem, which is damaging,” she says. “Embedded in this is that no one wins and everyone is rewarded simply for participating, which only gives false self esteem. It’s not a good life lesson and is not giving kids anything concrete to enter adult life with emotionally.”
Townsend says the growing emphasis on emotional resilience and skills such as public speaking and performance will give children
the confidence they need to walk into a job with the right attitude. “We are in a rapidly changing world, and so it’s important to change the way we teach and the things we teach,” she says. “There will always be a place for traditional academics, but what use are they if a young person doesn’t have the confidence to walk into an office and present themself in the right way?” A second language is also increasingly important. “To best equip our children for the future, having a second language is an absolutely essential skill,” says Asia Education Foundation director Kathe Kirby. “It’s more likely children will one day work as part of a global company and it makes complete sense that the more our young people can understand other cultures, especially Asian, the better off they will be.”
Kirby recommends Indonesian and Mandarin as most essential, and says a survey of 4.3 million job ads showed the skills employers seek most are digital literacy, bilingual skills and creativity.
Learning how to master money is another skill that is being increasingly taught in classrooms.
“Financial literacy is now embedded in the Australian curriculum, and last year more than 50 per cent of Australian schools engaged with the Australian Security and Investments Commission’s MoneySmart Teaching program,” says Miles Larbey, senior executive leader of financial literacy at ASIC.
“As adults, they will be faced with decisions about complex financial products and services, including superannuation, tax, home loans and insurance.
“Activities such as withdrawing money from the ATM, shopping at the supermarket, paying bills, planning a holiday and doing a simple budget all present practical learning opportunities to discuss money.”
Coffs Harbour mum Tanya Cruwys, hopes her son Fred, 5, can follow his dreams as he grows up.