Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The changing workplace – The conversations we need to be having with our children.

The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air  Much that once was is lost; for none now live who remember  -  Galadriel

Those opening lines of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is now, more relevant than ever. The world as we know it is changing exponentially powered by technology. Change is imminent. From the sultry Alexa, who can tell you when your washing is done or what song is playing , to a voice controlled home that you can command from your sofa( ‘draw the curtains’, ‘lock all doors’) In the recently concluded International Electronics Consumer Fair in Vegas, the star of the show, hands down, were the robots and their incredible utility in almost every sphere of work ,from baristas  to  the medical industry . It may seem very far-fetched, but  I kid you not, the futuristic Jetsons lifestyle(remember the cartoon back in the day with the Robots and the AIs in the 60s) is  coming and it is coming very very quickly.    Of course, there were other incredible stuff being displayed there including the wafer thin TV sets and the gen next battery operated cars and so on. Now, please don’t think I’m a tech buff. I am not. Just having to change my phone to another smarter one brings on a certain amount of trepidation. But having said that, I have had to change my mindset and be very futuristic in my outlook because in my line of work that is very essential. When talking to students and young adults about their career choices, I need to describe this bold NEW world to them so they can prepare themselves to confidently step into this workspace. More importantly I need for all parents to understand the opportunities that this disruption will bring about and to know that it WILL impact their children NO MATTER what career they eventually get into. All of us need to help them to be prepared and this is now more important than ever before.

We need to ask our schools if they are preparing our children to be 21st century ready.  To be global citizens, to be curious, to lead, to problem solve, to innovate and create. The value of factual information is decreasing and memorization is as good as dead!  And yet, both of these are still rampant at many schools and as a result at home too. Just today(10th Jan2017) there is a report on how Finnish Schools are planning to remove school subjects from their curriculum(by 2020)  as they feel  that the way the subjects are taught are no longer relevant and beneficial to the modern way of learning . And therefore, teaching has to adapt to match this new way of thinking. So now, individual subject study will cease. Instead events, (current ,past and relevant) and phenomenons will be studied and looked at from the perspectives of Math  History Physics etc. So once the base subjects are given the grounding in the lower grades, from age 15 ,the students move on to this curriculum. Finland’s education system is regarded as one of the best in the world and their Teachers among the most highly paid. 

Being an IB mom, I am really happy with the way the International Baccalaureate program prepares children for not only University but beyond. The non-linearity of the way interdisciplinary subjects are taught, using World events, fosters critical thinking, problem solving, the understanding of Bias and so on. Discussions at my home are always very lively and I am continually amazed at the way my son expresses his opinions and thoughts on diverse topics. They are always so well processed with a remarkable ability to think on his feet. I attribute it to the IB system. (patting myself on the back for having spent so much time researching before deciding on this curriculum for my boy and making the switch)

Going back to what the topic of this piece is all about . What can we, as parents, do to prepare our children. Let’ s look at what todays Employers want.  Self-motivated/self- directed individuals, people who can problem solve or can easily be trained, folk who know their core skills, can easily ADAPT ,able to collaborate , current & thorough in their knowledge of  their area of specialization AND the World. They are really not looking at individuals who can recall facts from text books or with the best test scores, to put it bluntly.

So when we talk to our children, perhaps our conversations with them need to change a bit. Instead of asking them whether they have finished studying, done their homework, what marks they got for the recent tests , when the next tests will be and so on, start a conversation about a relevant event in the world. No need to make this discussion formal or  an ‘event’ by itself.  Discuss it over dinner ,  maybe bring in your own experiences,give them an idea of what the world of work is all about and where it may be headed, maybe even link it back to subjects . Talk to them that it’s the norm to undergo a number of career changes and that ITS OK .  Talk to them about valuing cultural identity and celebrating diversity, encourage them to discuss personal identity ,try and  understand how they identify themselves and what problems, local or global they might want to solve. There is just so many many things to get it going. Start with gaming, Start with Singing, start with Youtubers( A couple of years ago I had NO idea what that was, I am now enlightened (but not necessarily convinced,though!)

Encourage them to get as much education as possible, as much work experience as possible, as much travel as possible, as much social work as possible.  But Never ever bring up your own academic life and give an impression that it was ideal. It may have been, for YOU at THAT time. Our children have been born in a different time and space and we need to give them as much of the BOLD new experiences that we can no matter that it takes us out of our comfortable,  safe and very often slender mindsets.

For those parents and educators who still think that traditional careers will not change or shift, it’s time to look ahead and smell the flowers. Please please do your research.
Hint: Start with Artificial intelligence and its impending applications/impact on all careers.

We are their care givers for such a short time. Lets make every second count.

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