Youth unemployment in our region is scary. Not horror film scary, but if you’ve seen the stats, it’s not pretty. And when the purpose of education in Australia is to create active and engaged young citizens, and work is one way to engage in the world, have we missed something? In my opinion, it requires a lot more focus.
One fundamental shift is on how we assess and support the growth of skills, not just knowledge. While we are moving into a knowledge-based economy, the biggest challenge is that we learn things in the classroom that don’t always connect with the way it is used. A student can pass a maths test, but if they can’t quickly recalculate change when working that first job, then have we made an impact? The reason that I opened with the assessment of skills is that with so much focus on scores and marks, then without looking at how we score these important areas, then the focus will never be as strong.
This is not the only shift as our youth move into the working world, though. There are some jobs that you will have for life, but many of us do not have that luxury anymore. Current data suggests that youth will have seventeen different jobs across four different industries in their lifetime – and that’s just the average! Adopting a focus on skills will then help us build the core skills in youth that they can use across jobs, and also assist them in seeing how the skills can be used in different subjects the way it can be used in different industries. And with that many jobs, also just having one job at a time is quickly becoming a thing of the past. The entire economy needs to recognise that we’re sharing this workforce and we all need to work together to get the right outcomes for businesses and our staff.
Often the question I get asked around this time is how to create learning environments that allow for this? See in my illuminate:nextgen Challenges it is what we do, and everything we do (in our five-day programs where we teach young people how to start their own business) is aligned to the Australian Curriculum as well as the skills we value as important life long skills. I know schools who are embracing this more and more, and I’m lucky enough to help some with this shift. Our learning environments should prepare students for the working world, where students need to be autonomous at times, collaborate, communicate, understand digital and financial concepts and much more. Even having a bell ring for lunch is something that only happens in a school – how can we give students the responsibility to eat and play without disrupting the work they need to complete? This flexibility is crucial and helps students recognise how they work best – and sometimes learn the hard way.
The world is rapidly changing, and the first place this needs to be recognised are our learning environments to best prepare our youth for the modern world of work. Not the world as it used to be, but the one it is going to be tomorrow.