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Are Today’s Students Ready for Possible Future of Work Contexts? What We Learn from Darryl

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Topics: Emerging Trends, Future of Learning, Readiness

We live in a world increasingly characterized by uncertainty. That uncertainty is multiplied by exponential advances in technologies that are shaping and reshaping work, life and social environments.

When we think about possible futures of work, this degree of uncertainty and emerging changes raise some important questions as to what today’s students—and today’s working adults—might need to know and be able to do. They also raise urgent questions as to how today’s K-12 and postsecondary education institutions might respond.

In The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out, KnowledgeWorks explored how two key drivers of change, the rise of smart machines and the decline of the full-time employee, could reshape work in 2040. The paper identified two critical uncertainties related to how these drivers of change and people’s responses to them could impact readiness for further learning, work and life:

  1. Will there be high or low technological displacement of human workers?
  2. Will the societal response be intentional and systemic or market driven?

Four scenarios illustrate how these critical uncertainties might affect the knowledge, skills and dispositions that will be fundamental for future success and for the kinds of supports that could be available to young people and adults.

Darryl’s work context in 2040 is characterized by the low technological displacement of human workers and intentional systemic adaptation to the changing employment landscape.To help bring these scenarios to life, eight fictional personas portray what success could look like in possible future work contexts. This blog post is the first in a series that examines the readiness attributes demonstrated by these fictional personas. Each post is designed to get readers thinking about the knowledge, skills and dispositions people may need or want to develop in order to be ready for future work contexts, however the current uncertainties unfold. This first post is about the fictional persona, Darryl.

Darryl’s work context in 2040 is characterized by the low technological displacement of human workers and intentional systemic adaptation to the changing employment landscape. In this context, Darryl’s work consists of project-based assignments organized by companies that employ people full-time but on a short-term basis of one to three years. In his current assignment as a senior data scientist, Darryl is part of a project team comprised of people and automaton bots that work across multiple organizational departments. The bots contribute to the team’s work performance by enhancing data analysis and communicating new insights for making strategic decisions.

In preparing for his career, Darryl leveraged multiple opportunities. Following graduation from high school, he sought assistance from a career development center that partnered with regional universities and employers to design and offer stackable credentials for in-demand career fields. The center assisted Darryl in turning his academic knowledge about data science into professional competencies. He gained practical work experience in this field of study through a university apprenticeship program. In addition, he undertook a number of different project-based work assignments so as to strengthen his skills in the use and application of data science across diverse industries, while learning the nuances of, and dispositions preferred for working in, varying multicultural organizational environments. Today, Darryl routinely meets with a career development counselor who helps him learn how to improve his work performance and best articulate the value of his professional achievements.

Reflection

This story of the fictional personal Darryl raises important questions about what people might need to know and be able to do today in order to be ready for a possible future work context that is similar to the scenario that he inhabits. It also raises questions as to how today’s K-12 and postsecondary education institutions and employers might respond. The questions below provide a starting point for reflection.

Reflection Questions for Educators

  • What current school programs or career development centers aim to help high school students like the fictional persona Darryl:
    • Turn academic strengths into professional competencies in order to prepare them for emerging high-demand career fields?
    • Identify education pathways, training courses and/or internship programs that will provide them with practical work experiences in their field(s) of interest?
    • Develop a strategic career plan that provides a sense of direction for knowing which education pathways, training programs and internship opportunities to pursue?
  • How might those programs need to evolve to help more youth – and working adults desiring continuous career development – succeed in an increasingly project-based world?
  • How might educators motivate youth and working adults to take advantage of such programs?
  • What existing or future educational opportunities might allow youth and working adults to gain experience working with people of different cultures and machines?
  • What can educators begin doing now to provide opportunities for learners of all ages to earn stackable credentials?

Reflection Questions for Employers

  • What are some things employers and team leaders can do to foster resilient organizational environments in which diverse workers can maximize their unique contributions and thrive without fear of negative consequences?
  • How might employers partner with educators and communities to craft and coordinate internships, apprenticeships or fellowships that allow students to develop adaptive readiness skills in response to constantly changing workforce needs?
  • How might employers provide workplace performance data, feedback and training that help workers reskill and upskill to keep pace with workforce trends and emerging needs?
  • How might employers cultivate human-machine partnerships that support workers in accessing project-based assignments that provide high-value services and experiences?

In The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out, you can read more about career readiness considerations for today’s students.