Working in the Future

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One of the goals of K-12 education is to prepare our students to enter the workforce when their studies are done. However, in the 21st century, no one really knows what those jobs will look like. So, this preparation is a bit of a mystery.

It’s time we gear our instruction to match this uncertainty. The time to move from low-level content knowledge to complex processes and strategies that are applicable in many situations has arrived. No longer should we depend on 19th century teaching methods to prepare our students for the jobs of the 21st century.

There are standards and guiding principles out there to help us accomplish this feat. One list to pay close attention to are the ISTE/NETS standards for students. This list of standards provides a blueprint for the kinds of skills students will need to develop for “an increasingly global and digital world.” For what it’s worth, eMINTS is one of only five programs to receive certification of alignment with these standards.

Another guiding framework is that provided by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Like the NETS standards, this framework lists skills that should be developed for students to be successful in future endeavors. Additionally, instead of listing teaching standards separately, the framework attempts to combine the two components to guide facilitation.

Together, these guiding materials should help teachers shape their lessons to prepare students for a future that’s hard to predict. Instead of focusing on content, these frameworks provide the tools students need to be able to apply to all content areas and, more importantly, careers that may not even exist yet.

Besides utilizing frameworks that address 21st century skills to shape one’s instruction, we can facilitate other activities that prepare students for their future careers. Wired posted a piece last week that suggests how to apply for jobs that don’t exist yet. Try having students create resumes and write cover letters for these jobs with an eye toward future studies and accomplishments that will allow them to reach their goals.

Planning for students’ future careers with an eye on 21st century skills is the best way to prepare students for working in the future. Sometimes, we have to take a step back from state standards and tests to make sure that we are helping students succeed beyond their time in school. Since we don’t really know what that future holds, we have to facilitate learning that is applicable in a variety of ways. Concentrating on 21st century skills and getting past the current limitations of career opportunities available better equips students for their futures.

How are you preparing students for careers that haven’t been created yet? How do you incorporate 21st century skills in your lessons? What are the best ways to include career education in your content area?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.