Preparing international pupils for the jobs of the future

The reality is pretty stark news; 47 per cent of today’s jobs will not be jobs of the future in a decade according to the Future of Work report from Deloitte. 

It is impossible to predict all the new jobs of the future in the coming decades, however, recent technological advances mean that ‘soft skills’ are valued more than ever, as non-routine tasks such as problem solving and critical reasoning are much less easy to automate and employers worldwide are increasingly finding it hard to fill the ‘soft skills’ gap.

For example, one third of skills listed in job postings are soft skills and even in highly technical roles such as IT a quarter of all skills required are soft skills. (Source: Burning Glass Technologies – The Human Factor).

Many international pupils often arrive in UK schools from overseas education systems where problem solving and critical reasoning have less prominence. Also, many international students are learning in a second or third language, which impacts on the speed of development of key ‘soft skills, such as team working and communication skills.

So how are schools with international pupils helping them prepare for the jobs of the future where ‘soft skills’ rule?

Thirteen-year olds who join Millfield School are being offered a year-long Outdoor Adventure module that aims to promote self-discovery and curiosity with a focus on confidence building, resilience and team work, core soft skills for success in the world of work and for life, generally. The programme culminates in a five-day summer camp and pupils will also have the chance to join international treks in Iceland and Norway.

Meanwhile, Burgess Hill Girls has introduced a new BOLD programme for 6th formers. The BOLD programme is focused around four key themes: Going Beyond, Opportunities, Leadership and Development. The programme includes a dedicated Leadership Training residential trip to Scotland in the weeks after GCSE exams.

New Head of Sixth Form, Bill O’Brien Blake, is confident the new curriculum will give pupils all the self-belief, determination and life skills they need to fulfil their ambitions: “With the BOLD Programme, we know that we prepare our girls for everything that comes next, and that our leavers are ready to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.”

At Brooke House, huge value is placed on feedback from alumni who share their work life experiences and explain the skills they use in their daily working lives. Sometimes, these are highly technical skills; one ex-pupil now a surgeon, did an interview immediately after her first ‘solo’ surgery to share with current Brooke House students. She also however, stressed the value of teamwork and communication in the operating theatre…

Clearly, the core curriculum itself is a valuable, existing tool and some elements are specifically targeted at soft skills development. As Marie de Tito Mount, Group Director of Marketing at Westbourne School, points out: “We have found that integrating our students with the younger prep years, as part of IB Diploma CAS activities, breaks down communication barriers and builds confidence.

“Also, critical reasoning is core to the IB Diploma and although students from some education systems may join without this skill, they quickly adapt. For those who enter the Pre-IB programme, a core focus of the year is on Theory of Knowledge and the development of leadership and critical thinking skills”.

An interesting, sector-wide initiative was also recently presented at the Headmasters and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) by Mike Buchanan, Executive Director of HMC. He outlined plans to introduce an AI product that would offer an online assessment system that might replace GCSEs.

Mr Buchanan said the AI tool would produce a detailed portfolio of what 16-year-olds can do: “You could have a report where it tells you, ‘This pupil can’t write grammatical English, but they can communicate brilliantly verbally, they would make an excellent salesman’- and employers could see that from the report.” He is now working with a few schools to trial the product alongside GCSEs but added that as young people are required by law to stay in education or training until the age of 18, traditional exams at 16 “begin to be questionable”.

Another key change in the working landscape is the growth in self-employment and the ‘gig’ economy. In the UK alone 15 per cent of the working population is now self-employed and crucially the number of self-employed workers aged 16-to-24 has nearly doubled since 2001. 

Kings Brighton provides an entrepreneurial approach via its The Start Up Business Club. This is a five-week business programme designed for the college’s international business foundation students, though others are welcome to join. The students work in teams to create their own business idea. This allows students to be exposed to the real business world, develop ideas and grow in confidence, all in the ‘safety’ of their small groups with familiar classmates/colleagues.

So, there is plenty of good work being done in UK schools to develop skills that are harder to automate and build an entrepreneurial mind set, but this work needs to continue and be further developed as pupils move into higher education. A recent education summit highlighted the challenges that still lie ahead. Tens of billions of devices will be online and interconnected globally by the 5G network and some speakers at the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit argued that universities are not doing enough to prepare their students for this new reality. The importance of soft skills again came to the fore at the summit; Dirk van Damme, Senior Counsellor in the directorate for education and skills at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, argued that universities need to do more to help develop the critical competencies required by industry.

In Italy, for example, just 12 per cent of graduates attained level 4 or 5 scores in the OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies test, which would typically require mastery of complicated tasks such as synthesising information from competing texts. In the UK, only 25 per cent reached this level, roughly the same as in the US (24 per cent), while Finland, the Netherlands and Japan scored the highest at about 35 per cent. (See here)

There is certainly plenty of work still to be done to get young people prepared for the career challenges that lie ahead…

Full article published here-

Other posts by Pat Moores of UK Education Guide