Preparing your students for the world of work

Preparing your students for the world of work

The world is changing – fast. Developments in technology, advancements in communications and the global pandemic have driven huge change in the last twelve months and as a result, the future of work looks different to how we imagined it as little as a year ago....


The world is changing – fast. Developments in technology, advancements in communications and the global pandemic have driven huge change in the last twelve months and as a result, the future of work looks different to how we imagined it as little as a year ago. So, with so much doubt about what jobs will exist when your students graduate, how can you prepare them for their future careers?

What does the future of work look like?

Perhaps one of the most unforeseen developments in the last year has been the move away from office blocks and cubicles as the ‘way’ we work. Many large companies are now eschewing the traditional office block for more flexible home working – so will offices be a thing of the past when students join the world of work? Predictions suggest that this may be the case – and sooner than we realise.

According to experts, the future of work is expected to be based around mostly digital work spaces. Technology will be a critical element of work, with a greater use of AI, specialist software and new digital services. This will create a variety of new and previously unheard of roles, requiring workers of the future to hone new skills with digital competencies and agility, communication and teamwork all coming to the fore. So, how can we prepare students for this? Read on to find out what skills you can bring into your classroom today.

Develop soft skills

Soft skills are non-technical skills such as collaboration, creativity, critical-thinking, resilience, flexibility and time management. These soft skills will be valued highly by employers in the future as the increase in technology in the workplace leads to an increased need for problem-solving and creativity skills, as well as emotional intelligence and a reduction in the number of humans required to perform repetitive or administrative tasks such as data entry, filing and creating spreadsheets. This shift in the way we work will lead to future workers taking the more innovative and creative roles, while AI takes care of the mundane day-to-day tasks.

How to build students’ soft skills

A great way to introduce soft skills development into the classroom is with project-based learning. Engaging students in a group project calls on them to work closely within a team, communicating, building relationships, delegating, taking responsibility, presenting, and problem-solving. It’s always a good idea to ask you students to work on projects that genuinely interest them, so be sure to get their input when considering topics. To get you started, some ideas for group classroom projects include:

  • Setting up a classroom discussion podcast
  • Choosing a social problem to solve in the local community
  • Investigating climate change and its effects on the local environment
  • Choosing a period of history to explore

Once students have completed their projects, they can present their findings to the classroom. Follow this with a question and answer session to get all students engaged.

Encourage entrepreneurial and innovation skills

New businesses and sectors are emerging all the time. While positive, this also brings uncertainty to the jobs market. Many new positions are being created but at the same time, others are being lost. To make the most of future opportunities, your students will need to develop an entrepreneurial mindset.

The ability to adapt to the changing jobs and new technologies will be crucial in future. The rapid advance of technology and AI in the workspace will reduce the number of full-time employees many companies employ. Instead, independent workers, freelancers or part-time staff will make up the majority of work forces. Students who think more like entrepreneurs will adapt and thrive in this environment.

How to prepare students for entrepreneurship

There are a variety of ways to build your students entrepreneurial skills including finding and sharing examples of new and innovative business startups and analysing what makes them successful. For example, right now, there are a number of innovative businesses in the fields of sustainable fashion, vegan food, biodegradable packaging and mental health services. You could discuss with your students what makes a business innovative and how do you develop an ‘ahead of the curve’ idea?

Or you could ask your students to come up with their own business ideas. Encourage them to be as innovative and creative as they like. The idea is to get them thinking about entrepreneurship and using creative skills.

Entrepreneurship is also about developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Classroom debates and role playing activities are a great way to develop these skills. You could ask your students to come up with creative solutions to problems as a team and pitch their ideas to the class.

Introduce artificial intelligence

Once the domain of futuristic sci-fi films only, AI is now very much a reality, pervading many parts of every day life and it will play an increasingly important role in the future workplace. Science fiction paints a picture of the future as man versus machine. Yet, this is not thought to be the case. Most likely, humans and machines will work alongside each other, to support and improve the way each works.

How to prepare students for the rise in AI

Increasingly, AI is becoming a feature in schools. You may not even be aware of how prominent it already is in your classroom: many educational software already uses AI – in learning programs, games, and other systems.

AI tutoring apps are a great way to introduce your students to the power of artificial intelligence. Of course, they’ll never replace the real, human teacher, but seeing how AI can work to help students solve a maths problem, how it can adapt the app’s support content based on what the student does, and does not, know, is a powerful way to explain the impact AI can have.

Cover STEM subjects

The likely future rise in roles based in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is well documented. Developments in these fields are increasing rapidly, and more government funding is being allocated to them. Encouraging students to pursue STEM further can lead them to find sustainable and secure careers in these fields.

How to prepare students for careers in STEM

Spark your younger students’ interest by sharing short video clips or articles that feature major developments in STEM. There are some amazing and thought provoking advances in sustainable farming, artificial intelligence, robotics, space exploration to capture their imaginations. Then ask your students to pick one of these topics that interests them. Set them a task to research it and produce a presentation around their findings. They could seek to answer the following questions in their research:

  • What is your chosen field of interest?
  • What area of STEM does this topic fall under?
  • What are the latest developments within this field?
  • What challenge or issue does this work aim to address or improve in society?
  • Can you provide an example of this in action?

Further reading

Employability skills: what makes us employable?

Our human talents: personal and social capabilities

21st century skills – what are they?

Join The Big Think

For a deeper discussion of how to prepare students for the future of work, catch up on demand with our free webinar on Learner employability: what makes learners employable?, recorded on 11 March as part of The Big Think series of webinars for school leaders. Read more about the series and how to register for similar webinars on our website.

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