During 2016, a number of consultations and presentations associated with The Knox School’s strategic intent focussed on the clear indicators of a very different future jobs market and the pressure on the unwritten but well-known social contract that outlined a good school education led to a tertiary education and then a well-paid and secure career.

Over recent months a number of mainstream media journalists and commentators have written articles that address these fast developing scenarios.

Bernard Salt in The Weekend Australian (Saturday April 29 2017) and on a Fox network TV show of late has commented about education and the demographics of the future workforce that is very similar to the material used in the consultations.

In the consultation sessions, a number of external factors were outlined as providing impetus for our review of teaching and learning in school education.

Salt’s article can be accessed HERE

Bernard salt makes a number of points very similar to those raised during our consultation process last year. He says:

The most valuable workforce skills in the 21st century are resilience and adaptability. New technologies and new business models will continually reshape the workforce, meaning that only the most adaptive will survive and thrive.

… We need workers who embrace change as an opportunity to learn new skills and to create new relationships.

Parents should help their children develop soft skills such as self-confidence and sociability: future workers will need to adapt their skills and to demonstrate to others how they can add value. If your kid is special and precious and is used to having the world respond to their needs, then they will struggle in the workforce of the future.

On February 19, 2017, Paul Biegler, in The Age, penned a piece titled, What is a smart kid in the age of the smart machine. It can be accessed HERE

He acknowledges the work of MIT academics Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee and what they call The Second Machine Age, noting the unique challenges for the workers of tomorrow, our children and students of today.

As we discussed in 2016, both Salt and Biegler warn that the Productivity Commission advised we risk losing 40 per cent of jobs to automation in the next decade and it’s increasingly clear those jobs that do remain won’t follow the traditional time line. Biegler also quotes Jan Owen, chief executive of the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), that the old model that you’re born, you go to school and you go to university and you get a job and you retire after 35 years with a gold pen is fast disappearing.

Recent trends in jobs markets show that routine processes (both manual and cognitive) are in decline. These ‘routine’ jobs, which include clerical and administrative roles as well as manual jobs are highly susceptible to automation, a trend set to continue and increase in speed. The Productivity Commission’s research estimates that 40 per cent of jobs in Australia are at high risk of being automated in the next decade or so. Some of these are professional and highly skilled, semi-professional roles.

Growth is seen in the ‘non-routine’ industries, those requiring innovation, creativity, problem-solving, person to person relationships and responsiveness to changing circumstances.

In an FYA analysis of 2.7 million job ads they report that across seven job clusters the likelihood of surviving automation varies dramatically.

“Carers” (e.g. GPs, social workers), “informers” (e.g. teachers, economists) and “technologists” (e.g. programmers, web developers) have the most bullish prospects while “artisans” (e.g. electrical engineering techs, mechanics) and “co-ordinators” (e.g. bookkeepers, receptionists) have the bleakest outlook in the face of automation.

An earlier FYA report, released in April 2016, suggests that as traditional occupations die out the ability to pivot between jobs will hinge on a critical set of skills.

The FYA New Basics report analysed 4.2 million job advertisements in Australia to look at what employers were asking for, particularly for young people with under five years’ work experience. They were asking for a set of what they called ‘enterprise’ skills and which I call affective skills or capabilities.

The FYA has found those skills are not only a common requirement across jobs clusters but translate to hard cash, garnering more in annual income.

These capabilities are critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, curiosity, interpersonal and communication skills, self-regulation, resilience, entrepreneurial skills, teamwork and attention to precision (also referred to as enterprise skills, non-cognitive skills, enterprise skills, 21st Century skills).

Capabilities are the set of skills, behaviours and dispositions which allow an individual to convert their knowledge into meaningful action in different situations.

Jennifer Buckingham of the Centre for Independent Studies calls these the 4C’s. Yet the 4C’s of creativity, critical reflection, collaboration, and communication cannot work without an academic education, often known as the traditional 3R’s. Capabilities without academic skills and knowledge are not very useful.

I am pleased to be able to bring these two articles to your attention as examples of what is beginning to be seen in mainstream media.
Currently, we have a significant advantage. We have been thinking and discussing these changes and how we might deal with them for nearly 12 months. We have a draft strategy, at the governance and senior staff level, we have the high quality teams that can understand, lead, devise and implement our future development. The staff are highly capable and committed to the futures of their students.

In addition, we already have significant advantages to build upon. Our community (parents, families, teachers and school) already fosters quality interpersonal skills, public speaking and well-grounded confidence. Our student culture is already of high quality. Our school values are explicit and we make a good attempt to live them.

We already see in what students do, and how staff work with them, strong examples of the capabilities listed above. I was delighted and thoroughly entranced by the performance of Pride and Prejudice I was privileged to see last weekend. It was a superb example of teamwork, collaboration, resilience, confidence in public, creativity, communication, and the rote learning of many, many lines, timing, interactions and cues. Congratulations to all concerned, especially those that carried the major leaderships roles amongst the staff and students. It was very impressive.

My clear view is a Knox School community that connects well, working to form a plan for the future. We already acknowledge we must explicitly shape the next generation inculcating high quality values, skills, dispositions and knowledge. Increasingly we look to appropriately provoke the thinking of your children, our students with a view to positioning them for an exciting and challenging future. We already know we have many fine attributes, history, traditions and ongoing successes, on which to build a vibrant future.