Future of Work: Preparing Tomorrow’s Workforce

The workforce is constantly changing, but our current outlook on the future of employment also involves transformation. The world of work will look entirely different in twenty years than it does right now. How can we adapt as well as ensure that K-12 education is embracing and supporting these changes to the best of their ability so the future workforce is ready and able when the time comes?

Changes Ahead

The definition of career is evolving, even as you’re reading this. Freelance gigs are on the rise: an October 2016 report by Upwork and Freelancers Union estimates 35% of the workforce are independent, and Intuit predicts that number will reach 40% by 2020. The future of work reflects the workforce as flexible and distributed. Teams will be cross-geography and remote.

At Artemis, we have seen firsthand how increasingly prevalent the remote model is becoming. Our team operates remotely with folks working from Washington state to the greater New York area.

Another factor that is changing is how often employees change jobs. A Bureau of Labor Statistics study reported that the average Baby Boomer will be looking for a job 11.7. times in their career while the average Millennial changes jobs every two years or less.

Given shifting industries, accelerated business cycles, and the evolving definition of career, how can educators prepare students to be leaders in the labor market of the future?

What can K-12 do? 

While technical expertise will certainly be a boon for future employment, students will need to acquire both hard skills and soft skills equally. Addressing complex problems in the future will always require not just a set of skills, but the ability to think through increasingly complex problems.

According to Maya Pope-Chappell of LinkedIn, in her article “Here are the Skills that Hiring Managers at the 50 LinkedIn Top Companies Want,” human resource leaders largely cited the ability to learn as the most important skill to stay competitive in today’s labor market and excel in the future workplace.

Adaptability, flexibility, and a willingness to keep learning are all key. Future employees must be able to not only work well in a collaborative environment, but also be able to generate impactful and creative ideas that escape the traditional status quo. Educators can adapt by instilling a love of growing, working, and learning into students, and providing opportunities for teamwork.

Emotional and social skills are becoming the intangibles that future employees will need to have in order to be successful.

“The chief components of emotional intelligence—self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill—can sound un-businesslike, but there are direct ties between emotional intelligence and measurable business results,” says Daniel Goleman, co-chair of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations at Rutgers University, in his Harvard Business Review article, “What Makes a Leader.

Paul Daugherty, CTIO at Accenture, found there are five traits of successful future business leaders, each of which cannot be replicated by artificial intelligence anytime soon. They include accountability, transparency, fairness, honesty, and an ability to design systems and processes for humans.

That said, technical skills and STEM still need to be a large part of any K-12 curriculum. Developing STEM fundamentals, especially math and statistics, will keep the doors open to opportunities. It will be crucial for educators to set expectations for lifelong learning at a young age and instill the ability to self-manage knowledge acquisition. As the workforce becomes more task-based, it will create more competition. Workers who are adept and continually updating their skills by learning cutting edge new ones will have an advantage in the labor market.

Educators can try the approach of integrating inquiry-based and project-based learning into the classroom setting. Such projects allow students to work on time management, organization, collaboration, and question asking.

“In the classroom, social and emotional learning skills can be developed by cooperative group work, discussions, peer-to-peer teaching, problem-solving and group reflection,” says Adam Shirley. “Project and inquiry-based learning can also help children to learn to think critically, use technology, and solve problems.”

There will also be a basic level of tech literacy that people need to have in the coming years.
For example, statistician and data scientist roles will be present in almost every company as a necessity, in order to compete in a data analytics-rich marketplace. Those who have a good foundation in quantitative skills out of high school and/or college and know how to integrate datasets will be better prepared to meet this growing demand. Teaching students tech literacy early on is essential.

Keys to Succeeding in the Future of Work

The keys to success are two-fold. We spoke with talent, learning, and development leaders at Microsoft, Google, and LinkedIn who said almost everyone in their applicant pools needs to be savvy with data, stats, running experiments, and math. But what makes people stand out is demonstrated empathy, communication, teamwork, ability to learn, and leadership. What do students need to learn to be prepared for the future labor market? Educators would be wise to empower these skills in the classroom: teaching metacognition and how to learn, teaching the basics of STEM and technology, modeling humility, encouraging commitment, inspiring creativity and entrepreneurship, and fostering emotional intelligence.


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Christy Johnson

About the Author

Christy Johnson is an entrepreneur and educator, and Founder & CEO of Artemis Connection. She believes that people are an organization's most important asset and by having a diverse workforce, organizations will have the most innovative solutions.