Why matching students to "hot jobs" will not end the skills gap

JP Michel

Have you heard something like this before? “We need more software developers, STEM graduates, wind turbine service technicians and (insert hot job here)!” 

Career exploration focused on today's needs is short-sighted. We are preparing students for 50-year careers. We can't pretend to know what the world will look like next year, never mind the year 2072.

For career exploration to truly serve students, we need a new approach. We can't rely on matching students to today's job titles.

Instead we need to teach students how to find challenges to work on. Would you rather increase sustainable energy or protect society from cyber crime? Then, they can work backwards to find which companies are working on that, who works there, and what they need to learn to be able to do that. 

Students will need to go through this process continuously throughout their lives. Getting some immediate practice in middle school, high school and postsecondary is key to learning these skills. Otherwise, they will end up like the graduate student I met last night who said: “I wish someone had told me this years ago.” 

We will not solve the skills gap by simply matching students to hot jobs. We need a new approach that helps them look beyond job-titles. Once students see the bigger picture, they can choose inspiring challenges to work on and then prepare to adapt along the way. 

For more on this, check out the following resources:

Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow (Yuval Noah Harari) - Upcoming changes in technological capability will disrupt our opinions of what matters most. As things shift, our decisions could create a world that is radically different from our own. .

The Future of the Professions ( Richard Susskind, Daniel Susskind) - Investments in artificial intelligence are helping to disrupt great jobs that previously seemed untouchable. 

The Black Swan (Nassim Nicholas Taleb) - Unpredictable outlier events will have an outsized impact on the future. Preparing accordingly will help you take advantage of chance, and understand when to protect yourself or to take risks. 

Adaptation Advantage (Heather McGowan). In a changing world, adaptation becomes the most important skill. 

The Inevitable (Kevin Kelly) - Observe the trends shaping our technological landscape, so that you can imagine different possible futures. This way, you won't see tomorrow as another today.

The Chaos Theory of Careers. (Robert Pryor, Jim Bright) We can prepare for change, uncertainty and chance, and integrate these factors in our career exploration and decisions.

Photo by Sonja Guina on Unsplash

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