The job market is changing by the minute. While accurately predicting the future is impossible, that is a statement with which most analysts agree. Over 60% of our current students will end up having careers that do not exist yet, and for a teacher whose task is to prepare them for those careers, keeping up with the breakneck pace of change can be daunting.
What can we do to ensure the future generations are ready? Although the future is uncertain, we do have a few certainties to start from.
A solid STEM grounding
It may be true that we have no idea what jobs our children will do when they grow up, but we do know that most of those new careers will be based on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEM for short.
The role of technology in our daily lives is growing, but for now, technology needs humans to build it, program it, understand it, repair it. From software developers creating innovative apps to roboticists working to produce AI, improve it, and fix it when it is faulty, we cannot deny that people with a good STEM education will have a significant advantage when looking for a job and will probably find it more easily and have a higher salary than those who lack the necessary STEM skills to survive in a world full of tech.
However, software and robots are not the only ways in which the world is changing: with the help of innovative STEM graduates, medical science will soon achieve results that look like miracles today, such as growing new organs and body parts and solving the problem of the perpetual shortage of donors.
A good understanding of the environment is also a highly prized skill on a planet ravaged by pollution, climate change and natural disasters: we will be in need of people who can find and exploit renewable energy sources, contain the effects of global warming, and even predict earthquakes.
And of course, if one planet is not enough, there are others: while a world where space travel is as commonplace as airplanes is still science fiction, it is not so far-fetched to believe that space tourism and the colonisation of neighbouring planets will be among the next ideas to become science fact, and we will need a new generation of pilots and aerospace engineers for them to come to fruition.
In a world where technology reigns, however, we must not lose sight of what makes us human: the most sought-after workers of tomorrow will be those who combine STEM with uniquely human qualities such as creativity, empathy, an understanding of social interaction, and the mental flexibility required to solve complex problems, think critically, and adapt to rapid changes on the fly.
A machine is not (yet) as good as a human at creating original content: it will process large amounts of data faster and more accurately than we can, but our brains are still superior to AI in coming up with new ideas, which can then be applied to inventing new technologies or improving the ones we have, in a virtuous cycle of progress.
But even progress can sometimes go wrong: the more science advances, the more we are faced with difficult ethical quandaries. It is theoretically possible to erase or modify memories and behaviours, or prevent illnesses by acting directly on a person’s DNA—but is any of this morally acceptable, or is it a stepping stone to a dystopian future? It is the next generation’s responsibility to find and impose the right limits to progress so that it does not lead us astray.
It is clear that we should raise a generation of inventors, innovators, and emotionally and ethically aware young people who will one day make sure that technology does not put us in danger: with the right combination of STEM skills and human skills, we can make sure technology is used responsibly—it is an amazing tool that can change our lives for the better, but we should be the ones to control it, not the other way around, and it is the children of today who will shoulder the burden of ensuring that happens tomorrow.
In this video, discover what are the future jobs that pupils from Acer Innovative Schools dream of: