One of the more stunning realities of the digital era is that many of the jobs people have today didn’t exist ten years ago. The same is true for the students and youth today; we can’t possibly imagine the opportunities and technology that they will be armed with by the time they reach the workforce in a decade’s time.
While this can be hard to comprehend, the data backs it up: the US Department of Labor finds that “65% of today’s grade school kids will end up in jobs that haven’t been invented yet. More than one-third of Americans are freelancers (some 53 million Americans), and by 2020, that number could be as high as 60 million. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics between 2006 and 2016, the average job tenure for all employees twenty-five and over was only five years.”
While all this data is exciting in terms of the future of the workplace and imagining a different future, it’s also rather troubling when you think about the lag between the education kids are receiving today and the education they will need when they enter the workforce. Many curriculum programs have not been updated in a way that keeps them in step with the digital era, something that leaves many students entering a workforce with a set of skills that is either outdated or not entirely conducive to them being a solid hiring prospect. In a way, it is a huge waste of resources to educate our children for a labor market that no longer exists.
However, the good news is that both educators and innovators are catching onto the fact that we need to better prepare our students for the realities of a modern, digital workforce. Though we cannot predict the future, we do have a good idea of the kinds of skills that will empower students. As Forbes noted, “Whether you’re a small business, an entrepreneur, a student or an employee, learning skills online can provide you with epic advantages. Not only will these skills give you an edge in just about any field, but it can also give you the fundamental knowledge to effectively build and market a successful business anywhere.”
Here is a sampling of what we should be teaching our students to prepare them for this new reality:
SEO: It’s one thing to learn how to write, but writing for the internet is another skill entirely. Writing content in a way that ensures website is going to be discovered is the difference between writing any copy and writing SEO copy, and students will be better all-around writers, both online and off, because of it.
Graphic design: The aesthetics of presenting information online is often the most crucial way of reaching your viewer or reader. Understanding the basic tenets of graphic design is essential to any kind of online literacy.
Social media and content marketing: Conventional marketing is out, and native experiences are in. Learning the basics of how social media works and the difference between reaching people via interruptive marketing versus permissive marketing is one of the biggest shifts of the online era. While it’s likely that the platforms we use will be different in ten years’ time, the rules of how we reach people, build followings and sell products will most likely not be.
Web development: There’s no doubt that the digital world is largely run on websites, and knowing how to create ones that are user-responsive and discoverable is key to being employable at a number of companies. There is a great education opportunity here, as once students know the basic concepts of web development they are empowered to go in any entrepreneurial direction they please.