The role of education in driving the future of work

Keeping pace with new and advancing career options to engage student interest is critical.

Despite its complications, the pandemic has also created an opportunity for technology, empowering UK businesses to advance their digital strategies by 5–6 years within a space of six months, showcasing a future of new, exciting and tech-driven job opportunities.

The world as we knew it has changed, which has inevitably changed the world of work – and education providers must now keep pace.

The future of work

According to leading market analyst, Gartner, the Future of Work is defined as the “…changes in how work will get done over the next decade, influenced by technological, generational and social shifts”.

Jobs for life will give way to frequent changes requiring a portfolio of skills –which means careers will be interchangeable and driven by the need to learn and re-skill. Therefore, lifelong learning will no longer be an aspiration but a practical reality as individuals continually advance their skillset.

“Jobs for life will give way to frequent changes requiring a portfolio of skills –which means careers will be interchangeable and driven by the need to learn and re-skill”

Educators need to help inspire and drive this change – avoiding an industrial age educational model where students mechanically regurgitate information; replacing it with one that develops higher order thinking skills including analysis, evaluation and critical self-reflection.

According to the latest data, 65% of children currently in primary school will enter jobs yet to be invented. The only way in which we can prepare them for a world we cannot imagine, let alone understand, is by giving them the opportunity to learn new skills.

Changing technologies

As the digital landscape continues to accelerate, education settings need to evolve and embrace disruptive, student-centric technologies which, in their wake, will transform the teacher from the ‘sage on the stage’ to ‘the guide at the side’

Additionally, teachers will need to engage the changing narrative on the types of job roles and opportunities that will be created by technology together with the types of tech-driven career opportunities available – be it careers in gaming, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity or SaaS development – and at the same time, help students adapt their mindset to the concept of a career path as something they can carve out in line with advancing technologies and the changing world.

Entrepreneurial spirit

To positively shape the future of work, there needs to be as much emphasis on personal development as there is in skills development.

Today, we’re living in the hurricane eye of change, which means those who are self-reflective critical thinkers, are curious, imaginative and resilient, are those who will thrive and develop both now and in the future – regardless as to how or at what speed technology and industry evolves.

Education has, at times, been criticised for suppressing entrepreneurialism – but it has never been so important. Students will require the confidence to create their own career paths in new and exciting ways, and education settings must help drive this.

Having said that, schooling is not simply about preparing for work. We owe it to our young people to ensure that they go through education blind neither to the opportunities arising in the working world nor to its potential pitfalls.

Careers guidance in the new age

Never before has effective career guidance been so important and never before has there been a greater onus on employers to step up and work with schools to help young people understand the types of jobs and careers available, whilst helping teachers bring learning to life.

Careers guidance must never become simply a tick-box exercise: it must inspire, motivate and build confidence; it must engage with teenage career expectations, how they are formed, and how they are related to gender, geography and social and cultural determinants.

Employers and business leaders must play their part, engaging with students and teachers to help them keep pace with the evolving digital landscape, and providing insight into how careers and the future of work are continuing to evolve.

Recent research has shown that the students who engage in at least five career talks between the ages of 14–15 will have a significantly better earnings average than their peers who have not engaged with employers by their mid 20s.

Therefore, not only do schools and the higher education sector need to ensure their guidance on careers and the future of work enables young people to fully grasp the changing opportunities open to them, but they need to embrace the pivotal role employers will play in helping to drive this change both now and in the future.


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