Over the last decade I have met, consulted and advised hundreds (perhaps thousands) of students and their parents about which courses to study at University. As we sit and talk about the choices of degrees, one question always emerges: ‘What job can I get when I graduate?’
Historically, this may have been quite a straightforward answer: If you studied accounting, you would be an accountant and so on.
Today, the answer is more complex for at least two reasons. The first is that the pace of change within the economy means that new employment opportunities are always emerging – and some of these now happen to be the most sought after and prestigious.
How do we educate in what has been described as the ‘data age’ where the amount of data is said to double every five years.
The second is that employment opportunities are so competitive that employers are looking for the best people not always the graduates with the ‘right degrees’. For ten years I worked in the banking and finance sector followed by seven years working for human rights organisations. In that time, I employed and worked with people whose degrees had very little to do with the ultimate position that they were fulfilling: architects working in money market dealing rooms; accountants working as human rights advocates; arts graduates working as business analysts and the list goes on.
The attributes these people displayed included creative and critical thinking, ability to work in close-knit teams under high performance demands, and flexibility.
I believe that a more appropriate question to consider is: ‘What graduate attributes will I receive?’
And this is what education for tomorrow – or what the Vivid Idea’s Festival I am speaking titled ‘Education 3.0’ – is all about: preparing graduates in a different way for the different challenges of tomorrow.
Education 3.0 is about developing different graduate attributes that will assist in ‘future proofing’ education including:
- Interpersonal & communication skills: These are fundamental in building high performance and successful organisations by ensuring effective environments and limiting errors;
- Critical and design thinking: Are both key in promoting innovation. Innovation is about being able to see the world slightly differently – from a different angle – and ask ‘why?’ A key skill is to be able to critically analyse the world around you in a way that allows you to see what may have previously eluded others;
- Emotional intelligence and resilience: This includes self-awareness to know both your strengths and weaknesses, confidence to take on new tasks but also admit when you are uncertain or have made a mistake, motivation and resilience in the face of change; and
- Seeing beyond silos: That is, not being limited about your disciplinary knowledge.
These are skills that are transferable across industries, sectors, employers and cultures, and explain why asking about ‘graduate attributes’ is just as important, if not more so, than simply about ‘what job can I get?’
We never know what the future will be like – but we can prepare to both anticipate and adapt to relentless change. This is what I believe Education 3.0 is all about.