After an impressive tour of a technology-rich manufacturing plant, high school students listen to company engineers describe their work. Following a brief presentation, the presiding engineer offers students an opportunity to ask questions.
“If I want to be an engineer,” queries one student, “what classes should I be taking in high school?”
The answer surprises the students, but not the engineers nor company CEO:
“Take courses in literature, writing, and speaking,” he explains. “Hone your reading, writing, and public speaking skills. You will naturally be drawn to math and technical subjects, and in time you will develop your engineering skills. But in your career, it will be your communication skills that will be decisive.”
What advice should we give today’s students to be successful in their initial jobs but also to have skills that allow them to adapt as economic and business conditions change? What is indispensable?
First, consider skills our schools foster and reward, including timeliness, punctuality, compliance with classroom and school rules, and an ability to get along with adults and peers. Are these valuable skills for employees? Most employers would agree that these attributes are essential but not sufficient.
Second, compare these skills and attributes with what employers want in graduates today. From a Forbes Magazine article “The Ten Skills Employers Most Want in 2015 Graduates,” the five skills ranked highest are:
- Ability to work in a team structure.
- Ability to make decisions and solve problems.
- Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside the organization.
- Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work.
- Ability to obtain and process information.
Third, consider the 21st-century skills taking hold in many schools today: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. (For detailed information, see the Partnership for 21st Century Learning website at www.p20.org.) Many school districts have incorporated these 21st-century skills into their frameworks for learning, and this work is an important part of state-level policy discussions.
To understand the changes affecting education today, especially the profound implications of technology, consider reading Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns by Clayton M. Christensen, Michael B. Horn, and Curtis W. Johnson.
To gain insights into the dramatic changes to business today, see the October 24-30, 2015 issue of The Economist, which had the theme “Reinventing the Company.” The Economist compared publicly-held companies with entrepreneurial start-up companies. It found that the qualities Forbes said employers wanted are relevant for both start-up companies and the traditional businesses that need to compete with them.
If all this seems pretty complicated, you are correct, but there is a first step each school leader can take. Learn from the businesses in your own community and region. In this economy, our students will benefit if schools and businesses are working together.
Adams, S. (2014, November 12). The 10 skills employers most want in 2015 graduates. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved from www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2014/11/12/the-10-skills-employers-most-want-in-2015-graduates/
Christensen, C. M., Horn, M. B., & Johnson, C. W. (2008). Disrupting class: How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns. New York: McGraw-Hill.
The Economist. (2015, October 24-30).
Partnership for 21st Century Learning. (n.d.) Available at www.p21.org
Article taken from Galileo for Superintendents.
Original title: “Indispensable”
To learn more about this publication, please visit: www.masterteacher.com/Publication-for-Superintendents