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Learning to succeed: Education for a future-proof career

Meet the education leaders who are using creative classroom design and technology to develop the skills base we will need for tomorrow.

Learning to succeed: Education for a future-proof career

Educating for the future means creating a workforce that is capable of dealing with constant change.

KPMG partner, demographer and futurist Bernard Salt looks to 2020 and sees a workforce that uses mobile technology to enhance productivity and lifestyle, with performance measured by results rather than time spent in the office, and workers on call “more or less 24/7”.

One career, many jobs

Such will be the pace of technological change and its impact on the economy that workers will need to be prepared for a different job every two years – and some of those jobs won’t even exist when they enter the workforce.

“As long as you are fluid, flexible, mobile, agile, social – if you are up for the challenge – then you will future-proof your career,” Salt says.

“One thing we can say about jobs in the future is that you’ll probably have 15 or 20 jobs throughout your 30-40-year career. That means 15 or 20 times you need to pitch your services. You need to be articulate, social and fluid.”

This naturally places an enormous responsibility on the education system to equip school leavers and graduates for a vastly different and changing world.

“There is no single learning, there is no one course,” Salt says. “There is no skill set that you can learn today that will deliver you a career in 40 years’ time.”

Change begins in the classroom

If Australia is to make this transition successfully, we need our educational institutions to emulate the world in which students will one day live and work.

However, many classrooms of today are not vastly different from a classroom in 1915: a teacher at the head of the class dispensing knowledge would be recognisable from one century to the next, and the ambitions of students would run along remarkably similar lines. Nonetheless, epoch-defining change is under way in schools and, in five or 10 years, the similarities with classrooms of a century earlier will be tenuous at best.

At the heart of this radical transformation is mobile technology. As it is integrated into the classroom, and classrooms evolve to resemble 21st century workplaces – disruptive, innovative, agile – students will be well-equipped for jobs that haven’t even been invented yet.

Teacher educating primary school students on touch table

Networks as a catalyst for change

This ever-expanding role of technology in education begins in hardware and core networks, is implemented through effective change management and will ultimately be delivered through the software that empowers people to use data and communicate more efficiently.

Telstra global education executive Susi Steigler-Peters says there has been a comprehensive change in the education sector as it responds to industry demands for a new and emerging skills base among graduates.

“We’re now talking about active learning environments, where instead of having one classroom, four walls, a door that’s closed and a private learning space, we see the walls knocked down, we see an openness which invites collaboration, which invites team teaching and invites parents into the learning environment,” says Steigler-Peters.

“Educators are increasingly bringing in the wider community, bringing in corporates, bringing in vendors, bringing in the whole ecosystem if you will – and this is not unique to Australia – this is actually global.”

According to Steigler-Peters, education leaders have had to become change managers and find effective ways to empower students and teachers alike to embrace technology. She cites social media as an example of a technology that was once frowned upon but is now being used by education facilities.

“People are embracing social media in their personal lives and it’s finding a very positive footing in their learning environment,” Steigler-Peters says.

“Through social media and having contact with a number of different groups, you can gather well-referenced, peer-reviewed information in a heartbeat. It’s a case of human connectivity and, because learning is such a social phenomenon, people are taking it into their own hands – and that’s what agency is all about.”

Vocational education gets agile

Although her title is executive director, teaching and learning at Victoria’s Chisholm Institute, like many leaders in the education sector Amanda Achterberg has needed to become part futurist, part business catalyst.

Not only is she looking to prepare Chisholm’s students for the workplaces of tomorrow, she also has to implement change in a way that will ensure the institute’s success well into the future.

“Our students need to understand that you can work anywhere, at any time, on any device and still be really productive,” Achterberg says. “I want education to look more business-focused for the industries we work with, and the contention around that is that we’ve got to be current for what’s needed right now, but we also have to look at the emerging needs five, 10 years down the track.”

I want education to be more focused on the needs of the industries we work with. We’ve got to be current for what’s needed right now but we also have to look at the emerging needs five, 10 years down the track

Amanda’s priorities as an educational leader are to ensure that Chisholm is just as adaptive and agile as its students. She believes that by 2020, Chisholm will be a very different institute as a result.

“I’m hoping it looks less like an education institute, more like a business environment: I want more informal learning spaces, more café spaces; I want students to be able to tap in and tap out, knowing they’ve got a staff member or an educator there who can help them with their learning needs,” she says.

“I want vocational education to be more focused on the needs of the industries we work with. We’ve got to be current for what’s needed right now but we also have to look at the emerging needs five, 10 years down the track.”

Idea in brief
  • By integrating mobile technology, classrooms are evolving to resemble 21st century workplaces: disruptive, innovative, agile.
  • A career that progresses through 15-20 jobs will be the “new normal”, and education needs to equip students for this rapidly changing world.
  • To serve industry better, Chisholm Institute in Victoria is becoming more like a business environment with flexible hours, mobile technology, informal spaces and cafes.
  • Whereas social media was once frowned upon in an education setting, teachers and academics are now finding it invaluable for rapid research.
  • There has been far-reaching change in the education sector as it responds to industry demands for new and emerging skills among graduates.
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