Our youth are uneducated and unprepared to face today’s global economy. The worklife that their parents and grandparents have thrived in is no longer valid – people don’t have one job, one career anymore. They might have a plethora of jobs, and/or no career. Or, a career that twists and morphs to adapt to this new, rapidly changing global economy.
Traditional educational methods are based on creating a workforce for an economy that no longer exists.
The skills that are being taught are archaic, based on the way things were, instead of the way things are. Schools teach general knowledge, in a highly structured environment, which can suppress creativity and out-of-the-box problem solving.
There seems to be far less opportunities for traditional jobs, and companies are hiring more freelancers to save money. Previously, a person could work for a company for 25-40 years, and then enjoy a comfortable retirement. Because corporations are hiring more freelancers, this means that they are not responsible for taxes, health care, or retirement – the freelancer is.
This is a concept that is foreign to most parents – the fact that you don’t need to work FOR someone, but that you can work FOR yourself. This is a new kind of entrepreneurial spirit – no longer the idea that an entrepreneur is someone who creates something new and better, and builds an enormous business. Entrepreneurship now is profiting from your skill set. And the skill sets that need to be taught and developed are based on working online. It is amazing that teens today are not that knowledgeable about blogging and working online. They are very connected on the internet, which is a start. However, they do not see the internet as a way to Make a living, but rather as a way to search for jobs and entertain themselves.
Education for today’s global economy should teach flexibility
You might doing something different in six months, with only a dotted line connecting to what you’re doing now. Flexibility means being nimble and adaptable to change. Some people are rigid and like structure, and won’t be able to change with the times. Others are able to adapt to change far more easily, and will be more successful. The balance has shifted, from economically rewarding the structured careerist to now rewarding the competent generalist.
Part of this flexibility comes from being able to work with other cultures and languages. Emerging economies are driving more of the world’s commerce. Understanding and interacting with people from other countries and cultures are critical to success in the global economy. Having knowledge of cultural differences is just the beginning of being able to adapt and work with people around the world. Your friends, neighbors, and coworkers no longer live next door – they live anywhere in the world. Cultural competence is a key building block to success.
So…how do we prepare kids to live and work in a global economy? By addressing these key areas: unique abilities, flexibility, personal finance, and cultural competence.
Each person has unique abilities. Instead of working on people’s weaknesses to make them a more well-rounded person, there should be more focus on nurturing strengths. Everyone doesn’t fit in the cookie cutter, and we should not make them. You can identify someone’s unique abilities by determining what comes naturally to them, and things that they have a strong interest in. Make sure to address basic competency (reading, math, etc.), and then focus on strengthening things that they love. People that are truly gifted tend to have a skill or a high level of competency in a specific area, whether it is golf (Tiger Woods), theoretical physics (Stephen Hawking), or music (Joshua Bell). Parents know what their kids shine at and love. Encourage more learning and time spent exploring their unique abilities.
Because the global economy has changed so much, the most important skill anyone can have is flexibility. Things are always changing – but everyone expects things to stay the same. Letting go of rigid beliefs and embracing change is important to working and living in the world today. How can you teach flexibility? You must make them aware of it, point out areas where they are being inflexible, and look for alternate ways of viewing the situation, and possible outcomes. There is always more than one view of a situation, and many ways to approach it.
Parents and teachers should be aware that the career paths that their children are going to take will be much different from theirs, and their working knowledge of personal finances and how to live independently in the world is critical. Discussions about health care, savings, ways to earn a living, business negotiations, and taxes should be ongoing. Adults that are employed need to also educate themselves about the responsibilities of someone who is self-employed. These skills that all relate to earning a living (and living!) are critical.
Cultural competence is one of the most important skills that anyone can gain. It will influence how they interact with the world in a variety of contexts, from friends to employers, colleagues to family. The world is interconnected and is becoming even more deeply so every day. Having intercultural competence means being able to successfully navigate the landmines of cultural, religious, and ethnic differences. Being interculturally competent is also a way of viewing the world – in that no one way of living and being is the best way, but rather, that all ways are valid and important. Ways to gain cultural competence include learning languages, travel, studying abroad, hosting an international student, or being an exchange student yourself.
Dr. Jessie Voigts and Ed Forteau publish WanderingEducators.com, a travel library for people curious about the world. They are bestselling authors and founders of both the Family Travel Bloggers Association and the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program. They love to travel with their daughter, Lillie.
This post is one in a series about Redefining Education. The other posts are: