Asking your child constantly what they want to do when they grow up is an outdated ridiculous question.
So says 21C Skills Lab co-founder and co-director Justine Munro. She reasons that the jobs they will do may not have been invented yet. The content of existing jobs will evolve dramatically. And skills required will change constantly.
People will work in a variety of different contexts – as employees, contractors, independent producers, entrepreneurs – and they will need to constantly renew and deepen their skills through formal education, on-the-job experience or otherwise.
Rather than young people thinking about what type of work they want to do, they should be developing an essential set of knowledge, abilities and personal qualities that will help them to build a career through multiple jobs over the course of a lifetime.
“Yet, this focus on jobs – lawyer, social worker, builder – is still the way schools, tertiaries and parents talk to students,” says Munro.
“We need to equip young people to think strategically about what skills they want to acquire.”
Munro and Faye Langdon started Auckland- based 21C Skills Lab early this year.
Both have backgrounds in education and business.
Their pilot scheme aims to enable business and education to work together to ensure young people have the right skills to survive and thrive in the new world of work.
“Our priority is working out what are the 21st century skills that employers are looking for.
“And how to assess whether young people have them in order to be able to support their development,” she says.
They have been working with 4000 students in 12 schools, including Southern Cross
Campus in South Auckland, St Mary’s College in Ponsonby, Hobsonville Point Secondary School and Takapuna Grammar.
The US-based testing and research organisation ACT’s 45-minute Tessera test is used to measure students’ social and emotional skills.
She says these emotional and social skills – the “be skills” – are one of four essential parts of the skills set that the workforce of the future will need.
Key categories are use, be, know, grow.
- Knowing the new basics in areas like digital and global working, design and
- An ability to use that knowledge to achieve results, through creative and critical thinking, working collaboratively to solve problems and communicate results.
- Being curious, tenacious, organised, emotionally resilient and a team player.
- Having a growth mind-set that keeps you learning, unlearning and relearning.
“New areas of knowledge include things like digital literacy which we hear a lot about but also things like global literacy, entrepreneurship and the ways of using knowledge, those important four Cs, creativity, collaborative problem solving, communication, critical thinking.
“The ‘be’ skills are about how well you can work in a team, carry yourself and get things done. Those are skills like tenacity, emotional resilience, teamwork, leadership and curiosity.
“And the ‘growth’ skills are also important. People need to take responsibility for renewing and updating their portfolio of skills.”
Where 21C differs from New Zealand’s current education and careers planning systems – which the lab founders believe over-focuses on old knowledge and skills at the expense of new ones like digital and global literacy, design thinking and entrepreneurship – is that these skills are not specific technical competencies but generic skills that underpin many jobs.
“Skills are what is portable and what we need to focus on. A young person needs to think about the skills clusters that they enjoy working in.”