What did you believe the future was going to look like when you were a teenager?
Catching the future before it changes seems to be the only solution to the conundrum of understanding what the future of careers will look like. Generations past probably faced many similar questions in the 50’s and the 60’s following 2 World Wars, a great depression, fictional predictions such as George Orwell’s 1984 and even the Cold War.
Today we stand on the brink of what’s been called the 4th Industrial Revolution which will fundamentally alter the way we live, work and relate to one another. There was the First Industrial Revolution that used water and steam power to mechanise production, followed by the second that focused on the use of electric power. The Third Industrial Revolution automated production using electronics and information technology.
Experts and analysts across the globe believe the new era of technological shift will in all aspects, scope, scale and complexity, transform everything around us. There’s no clarity on what this future will look like, but there seems to be consensus that the response to this should be integrated and comprehensive across all spheres of industry and politics.
The quandary of navigating the future today, to ensure our children have careers worth pursuing tomorrow is however a labyrinth of confusion mixed with trepidation and uncertainty. Career guidance should be the most important cornerstone for preparing the youth for success. But how do we prepare young people for the unknown, for the coming of robots and the demise of so many manual jobs?
The most certain aspect of not knowing seems to be the conviction that most careers today will look vastly different in the not-so-far-off-future. What exactly does that mean? Without tangible, confirmed and well-defined parameters it seems we are guiding the youth of today into a pretty uncertain tomorrow.
We expect teenagers to know their future while still at school and from there surmise where they should go and study, work and what they should one day specialise in. All this before they are 20! So how do we guide the youth of today to take the lead into an unknown tomorrow?
Career development expert, Cherie Perrow is passionate about helping teenagers to manage their journeys into the future of work. Career guidance should be the roadmap to address the changing world of work and curb the subsequent technological panic. Cherie helps young people to construct meaningful work lives and gain insight into how to self-manage the transitions within the labour market. The key she believes lies in finding purpose and developing very important and unique transferrable skills.
Top of her soft skills list, or real world skills as she refers to them:
• Critical thinking
• Listening skills
Alida Raubenheimer-Coetzer sat down with Cherie in her office at the Kingsway School in Red Beach to discuss some difficult questions about young people and the future of work:
Q: In the light of an impending AI job take-over, career guidance sounds old-fashioned and slightly out of date. Is it a valid tool to address the changing future of work and the daunting uncertainty of Artificial Intelligence?
A: The digital revolution has changed the nature of work and careers and introduced globalisation. Although full-time employment remains the dominant form of work, contractual, project-based and part-time work are increasing. As the wave of AI evolves, the world of work appears to be more uncertain in terms of what jobs will look like.
I believe career guidance is needed more than ever. Youth need to be equipped and empowered with portable skills and a mind-set that will enable them to make decisions in a world of dynamic change.
Career guidance is important as it offers youth a critical space to reflect, explore and consider options. Youth need to be empowered with possibilities that I believe will give them hope and purpose to make meaningful and informed decisions.
My research for my Master of Career Development in 2017 clearly showed that self-knowledge empowers the youth and is the constant that they can draw from in making decisions throughout their life.
A professionally trained career counselor plays a crucial role in working with youth. I have been in education for twenty-seven years. In the last 5 years I have experienced three trends emerge.
Firstly, youth are overwhelmed in the choices and do not know how to make career decisions.
Secondly, anxiety and depression have increased. I have found that teens who are not motivated and engaged with their learning are more likely to encounter a sense of helplessness. Career education helps build a positive self-concept and helps them interact effectively and positively with others. Understanding how to adapt to change throughout their lives underpins effective career education.
Thirdly, students are remaining at school much longer, struggling to find meaningful subjects. Tristram Hooley, a Career Education professor at the University of Derby in the UK, says the education system needs to reflect the changing nature of work and not teach subjects in a silo-context and focus only on project-based learning. He says it’s time to enable students to transfer skills and knowledge across learning disciplines.
Career education and guidance in New Zealand schools is important and should be an inherent feature of every school to enable youth to manage their career throughout their lives. The impact of effective career education is argued by the Ministry of Education (2009) to increase students’ motivation and relevance of their learning while at school. Career counselling gives a space for youth to reflect on self, deconstruct career values, personality, transferable skills, and interests and align these with possibilities.
The benefits of career education for the students in my experience are:
• Increased motivation for learning
• Affirmed identity by understanding their strengths, skills, abilities and how they are wired into purpose
• Increased self-knowledge
• An understanding of the Labour Market that leads to intentional career planning and decision-making
• Increased confidence to relate to and with their peers
• Develop career resilience when faced with difficulties, adversity and change
• Equipping them as life-long learners to author their careers with increased confidence and ownership
Q: Taking into account what employability currently looks like, what do you think it will look like in the future?
A: The future will be focused on project-based work. Boutique specialised work that necessitates a wide variety of skills such as the flexibility to change jobs & industries and an attitude and capacity to constantly upskill.
Low-skilled jobs will be replaced by technology. It’s a positive change of possibility. Take delivery for example. Back in the day the milkman’s career was phased out by supermarkets. Yet nowadays can be delivered to one’s doorstep. This change has created many jobs across NZ. These are again customised and personalised to customers’ needs. This has changed shopping as a whole, whilst creating new career opportunities.
Life-style changes will be reflected in the nature of work and portfolio careers will be a growing trend. A mobile job-environment of constant learning and upskilling will change the current job-for-life type career path into a life of jobs.
The changing labour market is bringing about demographic changes and urbanisation, which will see the big centres grow even bigger and remote, outlying areas changing as well.
As human beings we will still need hospitality in the future, ensuring that industries that rely on the human connection and personalised services will have much to offer. AI will force them to adapt and change, but the human connection will remain in demand.
Employers are interested in the whole person. Skills can be taught, but work ethic and attitude cannot. Attitude and aptitude display a whole person and transferrable soft skills will make the difference.
Q: How do you guide young people into the uncertain careers of the future? Is the Gateway programme, Workchoice and other similar education options a way to map-out an understanding of the possibilities of the future? Do they work?
A: YES. Work experience and self-knowledge opens the door to possible career paths. All experience, positive and negative, enables students to learn about self and learn the why in their lives. Answering the why enables them to learn.
These programmes are focussed on self-knowledge. In my experience using the Cognitive Information Processing theory it’s possible to use a variety of career tools to unpack and personalise career values, skills, interests and personality.
These programmes also enable specific occupational-knowledge to help young people explore career clusters, such as specific industries of interest or trades they think offer a fulfilling career future. This way it is possible to align self-knowledge with the world of work.
“You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.” (Chinese proverb.) Self-knowledge guides attitude, knowledge and skills so that young people can become effective problem-solvers and decision-makers. Career is a dynamic process and equipping students to become effective decision-makers will assist them throughout a life that will be in constant change.
Young people must learn how to create their own personal brand, which can only be realised through a combination of work experience and self-knowledge.
Work experience gives young people the opportunity to reflect, analyse and build subjective careers. This does not magically happen. Experiences are critical to help develop identity and gain insight into the strengths that fit into the world of work. It’s a great opportunity to experience diverse work environments through tangible encounters that make it easier for students to find out what works for them.
Being a life-long learner starts today. Career education at school helps young people to understand the needs and concepts and help them establish how to start the journey.
Programmes like Gateway enables young people to narrate their story and to take ownership to be able to transition from school into the world of work with confidence. Lifelong learners will upskill throughout their lives as society changes and work evolves. Self-knowledge gives youth a bridge to build these transitions.
Q: It seems that agile, adaptable, transferable skills and self-knowledge are the non-negotiables of the future of work. Is this what comes to mind when you speak of a growth mind-set?
A: Carol Dweck’s (2014) definition of a growth mind-set discusses embracing challenges, persisting despite obstacles and being comfortable with feedback.
In the book Simple Habits for Complex Times (2015) Berger and Johnston says growing people bigger than the problems is key to a growth mind-set. The report says listening and feedback are the two crucial skills in creating the “lifeblood of change”.
I believe the essentials of a growth mind-set are being able to embrace multiple perspectives, seek creative problem-solving and demonstrate a non-judgemental attitude. AI for example must be embraced with a growth mind-set.
Career Education in New Zealand is pathway focussed, but I think there is much to be learned from the Australian career education model which is built around job clusters. The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA, 2016) promotes a mind-set that is intended to help youth embrace a complex world of work with a portfolio of transferrable skills, career management skills and capabilities. It’s an initiative focused on portable skills and knowledge that helps youth with their thinking about possible career pathways into an unpredictable future.
This initiative identifies seven key job clusters and two dominant skill types; technical and enterprise. This job cluster mind-set could assist New Zealand teachers, students and parents’ to consider a dream cluster (industry), rather than a dream job. This gives the rapidly evolving world of work a broader context.
Carving a career for tomorrow means youth must develop certain employability skills and Cherie believes they are the ability to:
• Analyse – analyse data and information (Literacy and numeracy)
• Communicate and use digital technology
• Collaborate – being team players and able to work in a group
• Be a critical thinker – research and question
• Be creative – design thinking
• Personalise – skills and qualities
Parents are the number one influence on a young person’s career decisions. A confident and affirmed identity will however be the fundamental core from which our youth make their future decisions. A career takes them into the world of work, but it also becomes part of their identity, an extension of self.
Speaking to Cherie I get excited about the future of work and despite the doom and gloom of the uncertainty that awaits, I remain convinced that it’s todays’ young people who are the agents of change. For me being present in the moment will always be super important. That way we will ensure that as humans we can continue to show empathy, manage diversity and drive understanding, while AI underpins the tech-induced disruption expected on the journey into the future of work.
By: Alida Raubenheimer-Coetzer, Business Support Coordinator at IMNZTags: Career Guidance, Future, Leadership, Soft Skills