Let’s say you could hop in a time machine and travel back 30 years to see what the job market looked like. In 1985, the Internet didn’t exist, cell phones weren’t a permanent fixture on your hip, and personal computers were considered a luxury item. There was no Facebook, no Twitter, no LinkedIn, and you had to get your ideas from somewhere other than Pinterest. A website developer didn’t exist and neither did online business managers, Internet marketers, 3D designers, or big data analysts. All jobs that are common place today.
Now let’s take that time machine to an elementary school 30 years ago. Knowing what you know now about the advancements made and the job market in 2015, would you advise teachers to teach students differently?
The latest data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) shows more than 5.8 million jobs across the country are going unfilled—an all-time high. This tells us there are employers looking for talent, but they are having a difficult time finding employees with the right skills. Skills that should have been taught in the classroom, but weren’t.
This isn’t entirely the fault of the school systems across the country. Schools have been doing what they’ve always done. Classroom instruction hasn’t really changed much since the agrarian age. But almost every aspect of our lives has changed since that time. It’s time the education system got on board.
Critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving, and effective communication are skills that will benefit students for a lifetime.
Historically, an American could earn a decent-paying middle class wage with a high school diploma, an alarm clock, and a strong work ethic. However, jobs of the 21st century demand more. Employers need employees who can work collaboratively, think critically, solve problems, demonstrate tech savviness, and communicate effectively.
This is why classrooms across the country have upgraded the skills that students are learning. No longer are math teachers having students simply memorize formulas to find an answer; students are now learning different strategies in mathematics to understand why they reached that answer. Perhaps you’ve seen that ‘funny’ way of solving math problems now. (Not to worry, here’s a great 3-minute video on why students are using this method).
English teachers are no longer having students read passages to retain and repeat the main ideas of a story; they are asked to use evidence from the text to analyze, provide arguments, and form opinions. It’s getting kids to think critically.
Critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving, and effective communication are skills that will benefit students for a lifetime. These are skills that will prepare students to succeed in the innovative jobs of tomorrow—the jobs that don’t exist yet.
If we were to hop back in that time machine and visit the year 2045, what will be the in-demand jobs?
Rest assured, today’s students will be prepared for them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark D’Alessio is senior manager of communications for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce.