On Sunday, I enjoyed the opportunity to have lunch with some Old Girls on the Gold Coast. During our conversation, one of the women asked me how Girls Grammar prepares students for careers that don’t currently exist. The question arises from research such as the 2017 study by the Institute for the Future which estimated that “around 85% of the jobs that today’s learners will be doing in 2030 haven’t been invented yet”.
Statistics like this aren’t provided to suggest that our young people will be unemployed. We know our students are going to graduate and find employment in a range of fields. Some will be traditional careers with which we are familiar, and others will be new roles that do not currently exist. Current speculation suggests we will soon need artificial intelligence ethicists, self-driving car mechanics, human-technology integration specialists, robot recruiters and augmented reality journey builders. Some companies are already recruiting in these areas.
Whilst we may not know what these jobs are, or even what future unknown jobs are called, the best way to approach them is to think about what skills will be needed. We know that many futuristic professions will rely on human capabilities, such as advanced analytics and pattern recognition, interpreting information, tactical and strategic thinking and good people skills. Today’s learning, therefore, needs to aim to nurture skills such as teamwork, creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, resilience and lifelong learning.
Our approach at Girls Grammar is to prepare students for the future in several ways. The first is to ensure that they have the foundations they need. This starts with the Australian Curriculum, which sets the expectations for what all Australian students should be taught from Foundation through to Year 10. Our national curriculum not only sets out the content knowledge, understanding and skills needed for life and work in the 21st century, it is also underpinned by seven general capabilities: literacy, numeracy, IT capabilities, critical and creative thinking, personal and social capabilities, ethical understanding and intercultural understanding. A review of the Australian Curriculum is currently under way and parents are encouraged to provide their feedback before 8 July https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/consultation
It is also important to use the curriculum content as the vehicle for teaching the skills and attributes valued by employers. This means the subject matter, rather than being the goal in itself, is used to provide learning opportunities to develop including analytical skills, critical thinking, problem solving, adaptability, problem solving, mental and emotional resilience and the ability to deal with change.
To do this, however, requires a different pedagogical approach than the past ‘chalk and talk’ models. Instilling workplace skills that cannot be replicated by artificial intelligence, including teamwork, communication, creativity and critical thinking, cannot be developed if students are passive listeners in the learning process. This is one of the reasons why Girls Grammar is participating in ISQ’s Teacher Growth and Development program. This two-year program will help us to develop teachers’ pedagogical approaches in line with evidence-based practices such as Harvard’s Cultures of Thinking where student thinking is valued, visible and actively promoted. Our investment in new classroom furniture is a step towards the provision of classrooms that facilitate collaborative, engaging learning spaces and allow us to teach, acquire and measure skills that will be important for the workplace.
As they approach their senior studies, we also spend time mentoring students, starting in Year 10, helping them to understand the importance of lifelong learning. One of the key messages we endeavour to build is that university and a career are not the end goal. Given the US Bureau of Labour Statistics has estimated that today’s learners will have 8 to 10 careers by the time they’re 38, it is important that our senior students understand that a university degree is a milestone in a much longer continuous lifelong journey, not an end point.
Girls Grammar is also fortunate to have a range of resources available to support us in preparing students for post-schooling careers. One of these is our very strong Old Girls network. This year, many of our Old Girls have volunteered to mentor students in STEM careers, providing them with insights into a range of careers and advancements in science, technology, engineering, medicine and mathematics. Our Old Girls are also generous in volunteering their time to speak to our students, sharing their journeys and experiences and providing advice for workplace preparation. Our Deputy Principal – Studies also liaises closely with universities and tertiary providers to ensure our girls know about and have access to courses, opportunities and information sessions.
The purpose of education today is to empower students beyond getting a job and being prepared for the future is about more than just technical know-how. It requires a multi-faceted approach to educating students with the foundational skills and knowledge required, teaching in ways that students most effectively learn, and providing access to people, resources and opportunities. At Girls Grammar, we are committed to ensuring our girls graduate as clever, confident and connected individuals so we will continue to review and refine our programs and processes to support students to be ready for future careers, whatever they may be.