Building the skills for tomorrow to prepare youth for an ever-changing workforce

In today's rapidly evolving job market, preparing the next generation for future roles is more crucial than ever. While technical knowledge remains important, there is a growing consensus that non-technical skills are equally, if not more, vital for success in the modern workforce.

Generation Z and those that follow are more likely to have more than one career through the course of their working lives. This is driven by accelerating technology, robotics, AI and automation changing the playing field as well as a growing appetite for job and career mobility among younger generations.

In fact, today’s school leavers are likely to have 18 jobs across 6 careers during their working lives. This can be astounding for Gen X and Baby Boomers, who are likely to have had just 1 or 2 careers from qualification to retirement.

With rapidly increasing career mobility, it’s pivotal that we equip students with the transferable skills to thrive from the beginning of their school years onwards.  

‘Soft’ skills are fundamental

The workplace is changing at an unprecedented rate. With advancements in technology and a shift in workplace dynamics, certain skills that were once considered additional are now fundamental.  They are also inherently transferable across jobs and careers and don’t have a limited lifespan.

We are now seeing jobs at both ends of the skills spectrum impacted by technology. Robotics and automation are impacting lower and unskilled labour, and AI is impacting higher-skilled roles. In this environment, it’s our uniquely human capabilities, relationship-building and adaptive problem-solving that will come to the fore. 

A wide range of skills fall into the category often called ‘soft skills’ (a name that is becoming increasingly inadequate as the need for these capabilities accelerates). In my opinion, three core skills should be considered at every step of education.

Critical thinking is at the top of the list

In a world overloaded with information (and a good deal of it not fact-checked), it’s crucial to know how to assess, analyse and make decisions based on many variables. Critical thinking skills build these analytical capabilities, readily questioning information and synthesising a range of data to solve problems.

According to the University of Melbourne, there is evidence to suggest that ‘without explicit instruction’, students aren’t learning critical thinking skills. As this article also points out, a lack of critical thinking has ‘real implications on real people’.

While there are some innovation initiatives out there, like this research database, it’s imperative that we focus on deliberately and explicitly building this capability into education at all levels to prepare young people for what’s next.  

It’s a skill they can take with them as they job or career hop in response to a dynamic world of work.

Creativity is key

Innovation is at the heart of growth and competition. Creativity is not just about having new ideas but also about the ability to see problems and solutions from new angles and think outside the traditional boundaries.

It isn’t just about creative roles, it’s about the ability to solve problems, envision future possibilities and adapt whenever necessary. In addition, research by the Australia Council for the Arts has highlighted that creative learning increases confidence, improves learning engagement and, critically, prepares our youth for a future of disruption.

Adaptability

In a world where change is the only constant, the ability to adapt to changing environments and circumstances, and a willingness to learn new skills, are essential. As the lifespan of skills becomes shorter, adaptability ensures individuals can navigate the changes effectively.

The career landscape is shifting, with some roles becoming obsolete and new ones emerging as a result of technological advancements and evolving business needs. Young people need adaptability to navigate these changes successfully. This skill allows them to pivot when their career paths change or when they encounter unforeseen challenges or opportunities

The imperative is clear

Education providers at all levels must consider how these skills can be built into increasingly shorter, sharper learning experiences to keep pace with change. It’s not just about preparing emerging generations for the world of work, it’s about preparing them to lead successful, fulfilling lives in a world that’s in constant flux.

Giving our youth a balanced skill set is a commitment to their future and the future of our workforce. It’s a step towards a more innovative, adaptable and successful tomorrow for all of us.