As parents, we regularly find ourselves looking at our kids and wondering what their life will look like in 10, 20, 30 years. Will they be happy? Will they pick a partner who will be kind and loving and supportive? Will they choose a career that both fulfils them and challenges them? More importantly, will they remember to brush their teeth and eat vegetables? I have my doubts. As our children grow up and enter their senior years, the “what do you want to do after school?” becomes a hot topic at the dinner table. However, as parents, this isn’t the first time we’ve thought about this question. We’ve been preparing for it since the day they were born. Maybe we send them to a private school or invest in tutors, maybe we register them for sporting teams and send them to holiday camps, maybe we choose to read them a book before bed instead of allowing them to use a device or maybe we download intellectually stimulating games for the device instead. We are constantly looking for interesting ways to guide our kids on the path of life.
Some studies have estimated that Australians will make 17 changes in employers across 5 different careers. By 2030, automation, globalisation and flexibility will change what we do in every single job. This is quite different to our parents’ generation and even our own. So how can we better prepare our kids? Preparing our children is all about increasing their skill set. We know that sport is great for teamwork. We know that school is great for critical thinking and problem solving. But sometimes, school and sport don’t cover all the bases, and we look for other ways we can facilitate the growth and development of fundamental skills. The great thing about skills-based learning is that what is being learnt is transferable across industries. So, no matter whether they want to be a firefighter or a dancer, or whether they change their mind every 5 seconds or have absolutely no idea, if they are equipped with the right skills, they will be able to transition into a career smoothly. Things like critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving, curiosity and effective communication are some of the seven survival skills that education expert Tony Wagner has identified. While yes, our kids are well versed in the act of curiosity (get that snail out of your mouth!) and collaboration (stop trying to get out of chores with your sister!), there are ways in which we, as parents, can introduce our kids to these concepts in other contexts. For example, we teach kids how to code which, at its core, is immensely valuable for the future of work. However, it is exercised and practiced in an environment that teaches kids that coding is as much a mindset as it is a practical skill. This mindset will change the way they engage with problem solving, collaboration and entrepreneurship, especially if they grasp the unlimited possibilities of code.
Not just skill acquisition, but skill practice.
It’s not simply a matter of acquiring these skills, but ensuring our kids know how to use them. Instead of pushing our kids in the direction of a particular career path, make sure they’re confident and good at problem solving, are curious and agile. This will help them transition into whatever career path they choose later on.