Preparing Students for Work: Six Key Trends Driving our Future Workforce

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Americans define themselves by what they do. And almost any story you tell about a person connects back to work – a first job, a 25-year career in medicine, service in the military, you name it. What we do from 9 to 5 shapes our identity, how we perceive others and the impact we make in our communities.

The jobs of the future will look different than today’s and so will our stories. Look no further than the headlines of factories closing and tech giants’ responses to the rise of automation.

With technology booming and globalization growing, we are in the midst of a massive transition in the labor market. For many, job security is uncertain, and efforts are underway to reskill our current workforce and prepare our youth to meet the new market demands, which will require more highly technical competencies. According to Georgetown University’s recent report on job growth, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and healthcare professions are among some of the fastest growing occupations, and will also require high levels of post-secondary education.

At the recent Atlantic LIVE’s Future of Work event in Atlanta, GA, business and education leaders – including the presidents of both GE Appliances and Georgia Institute of Technology – and public officials – like Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed – grappled with the leading trends driving conversations around workforce development and education amidst a rapidly changing economy:

  1. Promoting diversity and inclusion: Our workforce makeup looks different today than it did 10 years ago. Millennials now are the most diverse population and make up the largest generation in the workforce. Local governments and businesses are adopting new ways of ensuring their workplaces are inclusive. In the city of Atlanta, this means allocating funds for incubators that support and train women entrepreneurs who intend to create jobs in the economy. And at MailChimp, the company’s executive leaders advance a vibrant and open work culture so employees are heard, are engaged and have an impact. This includes internal leadership programs for all levels that offer trainings from communication and problem solving skills to “influencing without authority,” along with community volunteering, and a 90-day apprenticeship program where employees can try a new role at the company.
  2. Leveraging business and education partnerships: There must be an open dialogue between business and education communities so students graduate with the skills that meet workforce demands. At the Technical College System of Georgia – comprised of more than 20 colleges – leaders have ongoing monthly conversations with their board of business leaders about what businesses are going to need five or 10 years down the road. This means ensuring that the technical curriculum aligns with and adapts to workforce needs.
  3. Early exposure to the workplace: Students need experiential opportunities to connect the dots between the credential and the job they will earn. And with that job comes learning important professional, “soft” skills critical for career success. Whether it’s an apprenticeship or internship, employers are increasingly finding value in introducing younger workers into the workplace. For example, Genesys Works partners with top businesses and school districts to provide high school seniors year-long, paid technical internships. As a result, students are more likely to graduate from high school and college and have a better understanding of what credential they want to earn to get the job they want.
  4. Credentials matter: According to Jamie Merisotis, President and CEO of Lumina Foundation, “a credential is the currency in our knowledge based economy.” Preparing, educating and training our students for the jobs of the future begins with that credential. Two-thirds of the jobs created today require some form of post-high school learning – including some college or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree – and that will only continue to grow as technical competencies become increasingly necessary. However, we must remember there is a human face behind each credential – who will be navigating an evolving economy throughout his or her career.
  5. A career is a lattice, not a ladder: Preparing our students for the future of work means helping them understand that joining the workforce is more than just finding a job – it’s advancing through a career. And that career is not always a linear progression – it’s navigating through a matrix of new challenges, acquiring new skills and changing jobs. To shift our thinking, we must let go of the old adage, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” for “what problems do you want to solve?” and “what do you want to be a part of?”
  6. Teaching students to be lifelong learners: The economy and workforce demands will continue to evolve. And continuing education is the tool for life-long career success. Students must understand that the first credential they earn may not last their entire lifetime. But that’s okay. In fact, at Georgia Institute of Technology, many of the students enrolled in online master degree programs already have technical bachelor, master and doctoral degrees. While the future may be uncertain we can be sure that technology will continue to advance. The workforce will need to keep up.

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Preparing Students for Work: Six Key Trends Driving our Future Workforce

iStock-610436768

Americans define themselves by what they do. And almost any story you tell about a person connects back to work – a first job, a 25-year career in medicine, service in the military, you name it. What we do from 9 to 5 shapes our identity, how we perceive others and the impact we make in our communities.
The jobs of the future will look different than today’s and so will our stories. Look no further than the headlines of factories closing and tech giants’ responses to the rise of automation.
With technology booming and globalization growing, we are in the midst of a massive transition in the labor market. For many, job security is uncertain, and efforts are underway to reskill …

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Education

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