Permission to Reset
''Ready for a world yet to be imagined''. A subtitle full of promise on the front page of the National Careers Education Strategy released last week (EDIT:11 February 2019). It's not just a cursory nod to the ongoing and rapid change around us in the 4th Industrial Revolution. A strategy that accepts a future of certain uncertainty as its starting point requires a total reset of the outcomes we expect from school Careers Education.
It can no longer be about one-off answers and decisions that will set students off on a linear path for life. Not that it often worked out like that anyway.
I'm often asked by parents which careers they should guide their child towards in order to have the best employment prospects in the future. We also encounter many teachers who feel unqualified to talk about the roles their subject might lead to in the future as they don't have enough information about the Future of Work. As a society we need to accept that we don't have a crystal ball. The world of work that our current students will exist in, undoubtedly has elements that are yet to be imagined both in the work they'll do and the ways they'll work.
I'm not suggesting that we stop developing insights and forecasts to inform planning and policy but we can only see so far. And rather than seek to close down this uncertainty, Careers Education has a vital role to play in balancing its impact. If we can't predict the future, then we must teach our young people the strategies to explore, design and navigate their future for themselves. Successful Careers Ed in this new context must be measured by skills not decisions.
Those skills need to be taught and practised explicitly, ideally from the primary years to have the maximum impact. That way, before the first of a lifetime of decisions loom, young people have:
AWARENESS. Of themselves and of the dynamic world of work.
ASPIRATION. The ability to create possibilities (plural) for their future which excite them for today.
AGENCY. The skills to actively test out and refine their ideas ongoing as they and the world around them change.
This half sentence reflects how underdone this is in our schools and curriculums but we need to ensure it grows in importance as we move into action. We need to build on the evidence base we already have supporting the short and long term benefits of teaching these skills early, often and integrated. Some schools are already finding the time and space to deliver this but we need to ensure every student has these critical skills to not just survive but to thrive in this world that's yet to be imagined. Teaching these skills to explore, design and navigate their future from the inside out should be the new role and goal of Careers Education.