Preparing kids for a future we can’t even imagine

Declan Cassidy, Community Manager at MakerClub sits down with Your Ready Business and talks about the importance of unlocking talent in our young people by teaching them about the internet of things and robotics early on.

We are in the grips of a skills crisis.

According to Engineering UK we need another 100,000 skilled workers by 2022 to satisfy the ever-growing demand from employers. The country desperately needs more designers, more scientists and more creative superstars to keep on innovating new stuff so the economic gears can keep grinding.

One of the major problems is that the world is changing so damn fast. The US department of labour wrote a report in 2013 suggesting that when current primary school kids are of working age, 65% of them will be working in jobs that don’t even exist yet!

The question is, how can we prepare young people so that they are versatile enough for this open-ended future, especially considering the fact we can barely cater for the skill needs of today?

Old school

In ‘Future Jobs: Solving the Employment and Skills Crisis’, Ed Gordon suggests that the four key areas of work creation will be ‘3D printing, advanced robotics, Nano science and Big Data’.

Barring a few exceptions, UK secondary schools are not teaching anything that even approaches these ideas. The current system is simply not preparing the next generation for the huge changes that lie ahead, and in my opinion, it’s the wider society that will pay the price.

The UK risks falling behind in both the creative and digital realms; toppling us from our spot as a global leader in these industries and potentially costing us billions.

While some could argue that school equipment isn’t good enough or that teachers are too stretched, I believe the problems are much more complicated than that. Our schooling system hasn’t been significantly changed in over 150 years and the disparity between school and the world of work is in many ways, worse than it’s ever been.

Pick em’, Pack em’ and Ship em’

Businesses want creative, innovative and inspirational communicators, ‘doers’ who are versed in digital and know how to build game changing products, quickly (not asking much, eh?).

Schools do not teach these dynamic skills and in a siloed educational system this lack of connection to the real world is compounded. We need to start thinking about context and cross-curricular learning, just like we do in real life.

To get a better idea of why schools are the way they are, I suggest you go watch the brilliant English author, speaker and international advisor on education Ken Robinson in action. His ideas show how today’s prevailing education system was actually built to satisfy the demands of the Industrial Revolution, churning out kids with basic, general skills that could put them to work in the factories faster.

Times have drastically changed, but the general ideas behind this remain the same. ‘Pick em’, pack em’ and ship em’, rather than creating a system that fosters a love of learning. In an age where all information is accessible at any time, we need technology to engage and develop creativity, allowing teachers to become facilitators and guides, rather than the keepers of all knowledge.

We need to do more to make school more like the real world and we need to do fast!

A New Hope

Just as the Industrial Revolution forced governments to reform education 150 years ago, so will the digital revolution change the education system of today.

A NESTA survey from their Young Digital Makers report showed that ‘84% of young people enjoy digital making’.

Young people love STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The key is to make it relevant – ‘makerspaces’ are doing this in small pockets around the country as the ‘Maker Movement’ ethos of DIY, sharing of knowledge and iterative development takes hold in wider society (‘The Maker Movement’ was the top toy trend of 2015!).

Schemes like My Kind of Futures which gets large business creating challenges for school leavers, are great examples of how companies and individuals can connect. Should more businesses work directly with schools to offer engaging challenges that involve getting young people to think in the kind of ways that businesses need? I think so!

New qualifications like AQA’s Tech Levels are taking STEM and giving it context in the workplace. Even, City and Guilds, who are classically the old guard of apprenticeships are getting a facelift with the announcement of their Open Badge Academy. This is based on Mozilla’s digital badging framework, offering instant accreditation for actions taken online. This is being created in conjunction with Intel and Samsung, allowing people to learn industry level skills on their home computer.

Makers of Tomorrow

Amazingly only 3% of global learning is delivered digitally, we think this is where the huge opportunity lies. Home and e-learning is expanding at breakneck speed and has the ability to be reactive enough to make changes that schools simply can’t implement due to their size and governmental oversight.

While e-learning alone is not the answer, digital delivery has the ability to create personalised educational experiences that can connect with users own interests and get them hooked on learning stuff!

We need a massive shift in how people are taught, a shift that reflects how human beings learn. By connecting business needs, a mix of real human interaction, digital delivery and simple trust in a young person’s desire to learn things they care about, we can help foster the makers of tomorrow.

Learn more about Declan and MakerClub here.