Lauren Brown: Business-education alliance is key to winning workforce of the future

The workforce of tomorrow, who are currently in the education system and being prepared for their working futures, will likely end up doing jobs that have not been created yet
The workforce of tomorrow, who are currently in the education system and being prepared for their working futures, will likely end up doing jobs that have not been created yet
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While Industry 4.0 is still evolving, nobody could deny that the world of work is changing at an ever-increasing rate. Employers are not only faced with the challenge of upskilling their current workforce, they must also look at how they can recruit a highly skilled future talent pool.

One way in which the Developing the Young Workforce Groups address this challenge is by connecting employers with educators, through a range of methods including facilitating teacher in-service mornings. At a recent in-service day, I was inspired by a presentation on Future Skills, delivered by Ken Edwards – Education Programme Lead with Skills Development Scotland – who I would like to credit for inspiring and informing this piece.

Lauren Brown is Project Manager for Developing the Young Workforce West Lothian Regional Group

Lauren Brown is Project Manager for Developing the Young Workforce West Lothian Regional Group

The workforce of tomorrow, who are currently in the education system and being prepared for their working futures, will likely end up doing jobs that have not been created yet – such is the current pace of change.

According to an IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) Scotland report on the Future of Work and the Skills System in Scotland – Scotland Skills 2030 – one of the key messages for Scotland’s future economy relates to the management of automation and digital disruption:

“Over 46 per cent of jobs (1.2 million) in Scotland are at high risk of automation. We will therefore need a skills system ready to work with people throughout their careers.”

Whilst it is extremely challenging to predict the future jobs and skills landscape, what is clear is that employers value the importance of transferable employability skills. This means preparing young people for high skill jobs, by equipping them with the meta skills which will enable them to succeed in ever-evolving workplaces. According to the CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey:

“Businesses are clear that first and foremost they want to recruit young people with attitudes and aptitudes such as resilience, enthusiasm and creativity. They are not selecting simply on the basis of academic ability.”

Top of the list on the most important factors for employers in recruiting school/college leavers? Attitudes towards work/character – with less than one business in five preferring academic qualifications.

Skills such as complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management and coordinating with others are, therefore, just as important now as they were five years ago.

Yet, when young people were asked what they thought employers were looking for – the response was ‘Good exam results and qualifications.’

This begs the question – how do we address the mismatch between young people’s and employers’ views?

Young people spend so much time learning new skills and knowledge, with teachers and careers advisers amongst the biggest influencers in a young person’s life when it comes to making career decisions and future choices.

However, there is a balance to be struck in ensuring pupils are making the link between the skills they are learning in the classroom, and how these skills can be applied in the workplace.

There is no denying that schools play a huge role in enabling young people to make a successful transition from education into the workplace. According to Hooley’s Evidence Base on Lifelong Guidance: “Career Education is core to supporting young people to take responsibility for career and employability pathways”.

However, teachers are just one part of a much bigger picture. We all – employers, parents, carers, careers advisers – have an important role to play in equipping young people with the skills they will need to adapt to the modern workplace.

If almost half of jobs are at risk of being automated, this means that we can still prepare young people for the other 50 per cent which won’t be subject to automation – those roles that crucially require relationship-building skills, creativity and emotional intelligence.

To achieve this objective, the communication and engagement between businesses and schools is vital.

The impact of rapid technological and digital advances is such that the business community must advance and respond at pace. It is, therefore, only through direct engagement between businesses and schools that educational influencers will be able to prepare their students to succeed in a changing world – including how to use emerging technologies, how to navigate evolving workplaces, how to communicate effectively and how to think critically and solve problems.

This collaborative approach between business and education enriches the learner journey, allowing pupils to better articulate their core transferable skills and enabling businesses to attract a well-prepared and highly skilled future workforce.

Lauren Brown is Project Manager for Developing the Young Workforce West Lothian Regional Group

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