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Preparing Kids for Careers of the Future

Preparing Kids for Careers of the Future

How children as young as 3 can learn skills now that will help them once they enter the workforce.

Believe it or not, today’s 3-year-olds will be graduating from high school in 2031. No one knows exactly what the world will look like 14 years from now, nor can anyone predict it. That’s why schools are equipping these students now with valuable skills to ensure they will be able to enter the job market and thrive in the future.

The truth is, many of the jobs these children will do may not yet exist today—especially those in fields relating to STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM jobs are expected to grow by more than 9 million between 2012 and 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, so it is clear these careers will continue to be in demand.

Jason Tyszko is the executive director of the Center for Education and Workforce—a nonprofit program affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that aims to help students learn the necessary skills to enter the workforce. He foresees that there will be many STEM jobs in the future within different industries, and that routine work will continue to be replaced by automated technology, or will be outsourced. “Anything that even hints at routine work is in danger in this economy,” Tyszko says. “It’s something that will eventually be phased out… it’s something that’s now affecting white-collar jobs, too.” 

This is why kids need to start thinking about their futures now.

Lessons Learned Beyond the Textbook

To succeed in tomorrow’s workplace, Tyszko recommend that kids master “innovation skills.”

Innovation skills are qualities that make a person employable, including the ability to be adaptable, think critically, collaborate with a team to solve problems, and work on project-based learning. “It gets students to go through the process of solving a problem and their experiences to better reflect the kind of team-based experience that they’re going to be expected to fit into when they transition into a place of employment,” Tyszko says.

These innovation skills are necessary for every type of job, and are often overlooked as a crucial factor in entering the workforce. Tyszko proposes schools disrupt educational “silos” that divide subjects and instead mesh them together to create new types of challenges that mirror real world jobs.

This type of disruptive learning cannot be implemented in every classroom just yet, but there are ways to hone in on innovation skills. Tyszko suggests students join clubs that participate in competitions or take part in summer immersion projects to work with others—especially kids with different backgrounds and in other age groups.

Early Introductions

When it comes to STEM, many kids have a hard time meeting standard math and reading skills needed to succeed in a post-secondary education or work-training environment, Tyszko says.

School are working hard to change that, and some children are exposed to STEM concepts as early as age 3. At Léman Preparatory School in Lower Manhattan, children ages 3-5 can spend 2-3 hours a week at the newly renovated and interactive WonderLab filled with blocks, building materials, iPads, 3-D printers, and more to build science, mathematics, coding, and engineering skills. “It’s a place for them to work in small groups and collaborate with a range of different materials that help them understand how to problem solve, work together in a group, and take risks to push themselves out of their comfort zones,” says Paige Murphy, head of marketing, admissions, and communications at Léman.

Along with STEM, Léman believes in ensuring that students are exposed to other cultures so they will become “global citizens,” Murphy says. Students at the school start learning foreign languages such as Mandarin at 3 years old and need to master two languages in order to graduate. “I think students come to us, even at 3 years old, being able to navigate a technological world and we want to build on that and help them to use it responsibly and how to continue to grow their ideas,” Maria Castelluccio, head of school, says.

Raising Global Citizens

The importance of foreign languages and understanding other cultures is emphasized at other schools as well as a means of preparing for the future, personally and professionally. At Thornton-Donovan School in New Rochelle, kids begin learning foreign languages in kindergarten and have the opportunity to participate in exchange programs in high school. With more than 40 sister schools, students at Thornton-Donovan have options to study in Hiroshima, Arezzo, Buenos Aires, and Hamburg. “Our school immerses students within the real world,” Douglas Fleming, headmaster of Thornton-Donovan, says. “Whatever you learn in school doesn’t come alive until you find practical use for it.”

Thornton-Donovan is a college preparatory school, and students move on to study at colleges and universities around the world. Through extracurricular activities such as Model United Nations—an academic competition for students to debate and negotiate diplomacy and decision-making—students are learning real-life skills to develop career interests that will carry throughout college and beyond. “Our school is strong in advocating for better diplomatic skills, and to do that, you try to train young people as ambassadors for America,” Fleming says.

International barriers are constantly being broken down every day, thanks to technology and exchange programs. Introducing kids to worldly concepts such as different cultures, foreign languages, STEM principles, and interaction skills will shape them to take their next steps and proceed as citizens of the world.

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Photo credit: Chloë May

Main image: Young students at Léman Preparatory School in Manhattan spend time learning about STEM skills at the WonderLab.

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