Experts say skills in digital technology are vital to economic recovery following the pandemic, yet the UK is heading towards a catastrophic skills shortage.
A study by the Learning and Work Institute found that less than half of UK employers believe new entrants to the workforce are arriving with the necessary advanced digital skillset.
Gen Z and Generation Alpha may be the most tech-savvy youngsters to date, but we need to find a way to turn their passion for gaming and tech into the skills that are central to the country’s economic recovery.
Changing world of work
The challenge is we don’t know what the future world of work will look like for today’s children.
The next 20 years are likely to see many traditional careers disappear while other roles change beyond recognition. The pandemic is accelerating that change, with home working huts and Zoom breakout rooms becoming a firm fixture in our lives while the regular nine-to-five fades into the past.
So, how can we prepare young people for the jobs of tomorrow?
Fact is, young people are already developing many of the skills they need to thrive in the workplace without even knowing it.
Consider the resilience teenagers build through gaming; Minecraft comes without an instruction manual, yet kids play over and over again, building repeatedly, improving as they go along.
In the end something always goes wrong. A fire or an explosion ruins everything players have spent hours building. But learning how to pick yourself up after a fall and try again is vital for any career.
Time management also comes into play. Whether it’s planning how to create a walled city from scratch complete with parks, hospitals and roads, or working out how long it will take to build a rollercoaster in their allotted screen-time session.
These types of soft skills are useful for students whatever the future of work may hold for them – whether they want to be a care worker or a carpenter, an artist or an accountant.
Gamification and reward
To help kids on the journey to their dream jobs, we have to give them something to aim for, and gamification is the perfect way to hook them in.
The hundreds of millions of people who play Fortnite and Minecraft battle to survive and thrive in the make-believe worlds. Why not use the same gaming techniques to help students prepare for their future?
Many games encourage their players to interact with a digital representation of themselves that they develop and improve. Players pick up rewards and move up levels as they go, increasing their involvement and interest. We need to get the same sort of engagement into their search for careers too.
“Players pick up rewards and move up levels as they go, increasing their involvement and interest. We need to get the same sort of engagement into their search for careers too”
This quest for self-improvement can inspire students to work towards their career goals and encourages them to better themselves, rather like Fortnite’s in-game currency V-Bucks that allows players to purchase things like a battle pass, upgrades and outfits.
Meeting students where their interests lie can light the fire of imagination and excitement about the future.
Keeping that fire alight is the key. And the more the players – or students – understand themselves and the skills they have, the better prepared they can be for their future careers.
In our careers guidance platform, for example, we aim to develop that understanding. Students answer a quiz about their personality, how they interact and what makes them tick. Then they are assigned a spirit animal based on their answers. This provides them with a ‘hook’ that draws them into the process.
A student’s attributes may reveal they are a bear – a natural leader who focuses on outcomes and results. Knowing this, a young person can build on the strengths of their bear. As they learn new things and develop new skills their bear becomes stronger and more accomplished.
Students then become interested in which careers might best suit a bear – engineering, for instance. They can then explore some of the many opportunities in this field, and the education pathways that lead them there, building a career pathway instead of a make-believe Minecraft world.
Immersive technology is a great way to bring these opportunities to life too by helping students visualise their chosen role, the pathways to get there and the prospects for those who succeed. The more a student engages with the technology, the more the tech offers up content to catch their attention.
Virtual reality (VR) has instant appeal as anyone who has tried a VR headset will agree. Not only is VR set to add US$1.4 trillion to the global economy by 2030 according to PwC, it could also help to inspire the future workforce.
VR is kinaesthetic, auditory and visual, and importantly it creates a safe space where each child is able to explore careers options and education pathways away from the scrutiny of their peers.
They can visit an FE college they may want to go to or watch a mechanical engineer explain why they like doing their job all from the safety of their own headset.
By giving young people a good dose of inspiration from the gaming world, we can help them build the skills and qualities they need to thrive in the post-pandemic workplace.
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