Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Helping students choose a course of study in a changing workforce is challenging for parents

I am often asked about how best to prepare students for the workforce of the future.   This is a challenging question, since technological change and globalization have accelerated the pace of economic change in our world.   In fact, about half of the jobs we will need in 2020 don’t yet exist.

To parents and others guiding students into key decisions as we start another school year, I have three simple pieces of advice.

First, postsecondary education is required of everyone.  Gone are the days of a high school graduate being guaranteed a job making a middle-class wage.  Nearly all jobs in the future paying a living wage will require some form of education beyond high school.  This does not necessarily mean college in the traditional sense.  In fact, many future jobs require postsecondary education, but not a four-year degree.  One of the best things we can do as families and as a community is to create the expectation that education after high school for ALL is the expected norm.

Second, do not advise your student to choose between a career path or a college path.  It is no longer an either-or proposition.  Students should be exposed to a curriculum that includes some of both paths.  All students should take advantage of opportunities to learn career and technical skills like coding, job shadowing, a co-op experience, internship, or apprenticeship.  However, students do not need to limit themselves to just focusing on a narrow career or set of technical skills.  Which leads me to my third point. 

Since many jobs of today will not exist in ten years, students will need to learn how to think, problem solve, and interact with others—these skills are part of the core liberal arts curriculum.  A few months ago, Owensboro native Bracken Darrell, the CEO of Logitech, told business leaders at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast that he would rather hire English majors because their education is never outdated by changing technology.  In fact, several Fortune 500 high-tech giants like Google and Facebook are increasingly turning to liberal arts graduates with degrees in English, history or psychology to focus on people-driven functions rather than just focusing only on tech-savvy engineers. 

The bottom line is that a balanced, well-rounded curriculum should be at the center of any educational experience.  That is a core reason we focus on the “whole child” in the Owensboro Public Schools with a strong academic curriculum along with the arts.  OPS also offers students a host of options with programs such as the Early College Academy, Bluegrass Scholars, Owensboro Innovation Academy, Advanced Placement courses, and several career pathway programs in programs as varied as masonry, carpentry and electrical technology.  If you have questions contact us and let us know how we can help you find the right pathway to your future!