A Mobile, Skilled Workforce

This morning, I read the RBC document, Humans Wanted- How Canadian youth can thrive in the age of disruption. It is a fascinating read for politicians, business and industry leaders, post-secondary and K-12 educators. I would suggest that it is important for the general public to understand this skill crisis  facing our Canadian youth. However, it is especially critical that the “back to the basic pundits” (who want to have schools teach how they were taught and content they are familiar with) are knowledgeable that “Canada’s education system, training programs and labour market initiatives are inadequately designed to help Canadian youth navigate this new skills economy.” (pg 3)

Interesting enough, our school division is hosting an Apple event this coming Wednesday entitled, Preparing Students for Today’s Mobile Workforce.  While a small conversation will be had, the topic needs to be highlighted with more intention and greater intensity, if we want our youth to be gainfully employed into the future rather than being automated out! But what does that look like for the 2.4 million forecasted job openings between 2018-2021?

First of all, the top five projected skills demand for all occupations are: Active Listening, Speaking, Critical Thinking, Reading Comprehension and Monitoring. (pg 12) Communication and critical thinking, two of the big three C’s are crucial in all occupations. And breadth of skills is said to be more critical than proficiency. As Montreal IT conglomerate CGI says, “We look for people who can go wide and then go deep.” (pg 35)

Among cross-functional skills, which help us perform more complicated tasks, our research shows that social skills such as co-ordination and social perceptiveness will be nearly as important across all occupations, followed by analytical skills such as judgment and decision-making. (pg 16)

Social skills, imagine that!

In the report, a decision is made to  group occupations into six broad clusters: Solvers, Providers, Facilitators, Technicians, Crafters and Doers and provide their vulnerability for technology disruption. Technology is not going away and the future of work in Canada and throughout the world is changing. They provide six things that you need to know about the future of work which supports the shift to these new skills while still recognizing the importance of education traditions. (pg 26-27)

  1. Analytics are trending
  2. Math is a big plus
  3. Firms want flexibility
  4. Digital is non-negotiable
  5. The three C’s are crucial
  6. Mobility is a thing

I’ve always contended that the learning of foundational skills, literacy and numeracy are non-negotiable in any education system. But they need to be taught in such a way to enhance other skills that are becoming increasingly important in today’s world. “We need to build resilient, persevering young people who are fluent in cultural diversity” says Paul Davidson from Universities Canada.

Instead of training people for the certainties of the past, we need to help them prepare for the ambiguities of the future. Which means preparing youth to work with knowledge that doesn’t yet exist, using practices that haven’t been developed and thinking about jobs that have yet to be created. (pg 35)

Our current provincial/national assessment practices can somewhat provide politicians and the general public with accountability in meeting standards of reading, writing and arithmetic. But, so many of the other skills that are necessary for future success are less able to be formally assessed. School systems need some flexibility in accountability procedures to allow for richer and more authentic learning opportunities. “The Canadian economy is expected to add 2.4 million jobs over the next four years, all of which will require this new mix of skills.” (pg 3) School systems, simply must be allowed to prepare for this realization… NOW!

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