It’s a disheartening fact that our school systems around the world are run by dinosaurs for whom innovation and technology aren’t core concerns. Instead of teaching our children the future skills they need to prosper, departments and ministries of education around the world are training children for production-based industrial and service societies that may well no longer exist in 20 years. It falls to you as parents or carers to properly prepare your child for the future.


Change and concepts like ‘social engineering’ are frightening to people who grew up at a time and in a place when such concepts were viewed as dangerous rather than progressive. Any gains made over the past decade in school systems are in danger of being unfunded or reversed completely under some current administrations.

If you go into the office of any American high school guidance counselor, you’ll see some information about tech jobs among career programs, but you’ll also find clerical positions and other careers that will become obsolete as they’re phased out or overtaken by artificial intelligence.

Remember all of those armed forces recruitment pamphlets mixed in with the information about colleges and vocational training? They’re still there, but tomorrow’s soilder is likely to be part of an army of robots and drones controlled from a remote location by a handful of techs. Even future jobs in law, medicine, and finance aren’t safe from the robotic revolution.

“We need a rethink around how we educate our children”

When you do find progressive education, another bar to success is access. While pilot programs and progressive schools have designed amazing and innovative educational models, they’re few, far between, and accessible mainly to those who can afford to give their children that advantage. Many public school systems around the world can’t pay teachers a living wage or purchase the technology future graduates will need to survive let alone thrive in the not-to-distant future.


In an effort at catering to the perceived requirements of global markets, career counselors and higher education have placed an emphasis on education in science, technology, engineering, and medical (STEM) fields. President Obama put out a directive in his 2011 State of the Union address to prioritize 21st century education initiatives based on a STEM-oriented learning environment.

Soon after, money and ideas began rolling in, and charter and magnet schools opened hoping to attract the country’s best and brightest young minds.

While this is a necessary development, it has created a de-emphasis on the importance of art and creativity in the learning process. Degrees in arts and humanities are scoffed at, and those pursuing them are considered intellectually lazy or dreamers with no ambition. It also leaves a lot of gaps when STEM programs have lost the original mission or are inaccessible to all who might benefit.


The crush by some in the public and private sectors toward more math and science seems to have no real end-game other than improving overall percentile rankings against students in other countries. It has resulted in transforming our classrooms into testing labs. While the intent is admirable and encouraging, the execution is somewhat misguided.

Creating robots isn’t the answer to competing with them. The problem with pushing STEM degrees in higher education is that each discipline is treated as a stand-alone program instead of one aspect of interconnected disciplines. If you’re going for a computer science degree, you study coding and programming languages.

Those going for a degree in environmental or physical science are urged to stay within those parameters. In the real world, jobs in those fields are more dynamic, drawing from a range of experiences and disciplines.

“In the tech industry, open source, global collaboration is the wave of the future.”

STEM education is meant to be more comprehensive than that. Ideally, it involves sharpening critical thinking and encourages creative, process-based problem solving in collaboration with others – all future skills that our kids need to be learning.

“Kids should also be allowed to fail,

and to learn that failure can be productive


The America Society for Engineering Education describes STEM education programs for K – 12 as needing to incorporate five components:

1. They should be based in a context that is rooted in real-world dynamics, and that is motivational and engaging. 

2. Students should be able to identify and apply mathematical and scientific concepts toward finding solutions.  3. The methodology should be student-centered and inquiry-based. 

4. Students should engage in solving problems using an engineering-based design process. 

5. Cooperation and communications should be emphasized as the means of finding solutions. 

There could be a sixth, and possibly more important component: that students should be provided with the opportunity to think creatively and test their cerebral boundaries within a safe but unstructured environment. They should also be allowed to fail, and to learn that failure can be productive. These are important future skills that help us to learn and adapt and ones that can help prepare your child for the future. 


Injecting creativity into the equation is why some feel that STEM should be re-branded as STEAM by adding art into the mix. Others are appalled by the notion of art being introduced at all. Naysayers will tell you that including the arts in a STEM education program will dilute the purpose of these programs, which were implemented with the intent of making students more competitive in math and science.

There is also a line of thought that formal art education isn’t necessary as scientists and engineers already use creative problem-solving skills as a natural extension of what they do.

“Injecting creativity into the equation is why some feel that STEM should be re-branded as STEAM by adding art into the mix.”

Ann Jolly, in Education Weekly, puts forth a good case for why art education should become a full member of the STEM team, and how teaching these future skills can be done the right way.

The idea is not to teach art as a class, but to incorporate the concepts and principles of artistic endeavors into the core STEM subjects in an organic way that translates to real-world practicality. She suggests that it can be done through the following:


This idea can range from enhancing technical and persuasive writing skills to developing presentations. Effectively communicating ideas and concepts to both technically savvy and non-tech audiences is, and will continue to be, a key occupational skill.


Although fields like engineering are design-heavy, incorporating graphic design into a STEM curriculum will reinforce several elements of the overall program. Computer-based and traditional graphic design is used in branding, marketing, and creating presentations in industries across the board. All of these elements rely heavily on the psychology of color, text styles, and images to establish trust and affect consumer behavior. 

This will also allow STEM programs to inject future skills that ‘The Institute for the Future (IFTF)’ identified as being crucial to future employability, namely design thinking, transdisciplinary training, and new media literacy. They feel it will be crucial for all workers in the future to have a good working knowledge of, if not proficiency in, all facets of media from the visual to the technical side. These are the future skills that are children need to be learning today. 

“Our kids should take a playful, inventive approach to problem solving


Rather than relying solely on statistical probabilities and analysis, we should teach kids to take a playful, inventive approach to problem solving that uses creativity. One of the foundations of any good fiction writing is the “What if?” scenario. Dry facts and numbers don’t encourage us to think creatively, but asking ourselves “What if?” can lead to creative solutions or innovative approaches to everyday problems. It’s these types of future skills that we need to encourage and nurture as we prepare our kids for the future.


In spite of efforts to attract girls to STEM programs, boys still make up an inordinately high ratio of enrollments. It’s not that girls are uninterested in math and science, or that it’s too complicated for their minds to comprehend. Part of it may be social conditioning. There has been a trend toward creating gender neutral toys and learning environments, but this has also been met with a lot of backlash.

Many cultures are hard-wired to identify with traditional gender roles and norms. Anything that threatens the image that some things are boy things and some belong to girls is going to meet resistance. Attempts to force the issue through legislation or changes in curriculum will be met with accusations of everything from government interference to emasculation to Communism and a whole host of other evils, real or imagined.

“Occupations with a high probability of human employment are jobs that rely on nurturing and care taking, creativity, and compassion.”

Even if we aren’t able to change a collective, deeply ingrained mindset, there are areas where girls may have an advantage in future jobs. This can be found in the nature of the jobs that are most likely to survive automated processes. Occupations with a high probability of human employment are jobs that rely on nurturing and care taking, creativity, and compassion – all future skills that should be prioristised. 

“Robots aren’t as smart as some think… yet”


The future of jobs may not be as abysmal as it seems when you read the statistics and prophecies, at least not yet. After all, Back to the Future promised us hoverboards years ago, and we’re only now starting to see them. Some jobs seemed like a natural fit for automated processing. One of those was court reporting. The decision seemed to be rooted in logic since all that’s involved is preserving depositions and the happenings in a court room. Any recording device can handle that, right?
So, many court systems did away with human court reporters, community colleges and high schools stopped offering stenography and Dictaphone classes, court reporting certificate programs were dropped from vocational training schools, and investments were made to equip law offices and courthouses with recording devices. It was great. They could take human error out of the equation and save a ton of money on payroll. The legal profession was all set to enter the early phase of the machine age with gusto when it all went horribly wrong.

Recorders weren’t getting turned on when they were needed. There were also quite a few instances of machines running out of tape or storage space mid-testimony. No one noticed these issues until they needed to review a deposition or recount a bit of testimony, and no one was really sure whose responsibility it was to oversee the process. 

It was also discovered that machines enhanced with artificial intelligence weren’t always able to follow the nuances of human speech, decipher bad grammar, or detect the proper use of homonyms in context when compiling transcripts. These were not simply localized issues, but a system-wide problem. Turns out that a human being was still needed in the process after all.

“The key to employability in the future is to be able to creatively adapt to changing circumstances and embrace technology as a means of enhancing your work.”

The point of this anecdote isn’t to say that getting an accounting degree will still be a good investment or clerical work is never going away. These careers have a high probability of being phased out within the next 10 years.

But, even tech automation of the highest level will need some human intervention or oversight. Court reporters are back, but most of them outsource their services as freelancers, using technology to make their jobs easier and more efficient.

That is the key to employability in the future. To be able to creatively adapt to changing circumstances and embrace technology as a means of enhancing your work, those are truly future skills. We can coexist with our future robotic coworkers, and their contribution will provide us with the freedom to find or create employment that is fulfilling and meaningful.

But we have to make sure our children are prepared and educated for this future, not the past.


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