Coyle: Change will remain a consistent fact of life for students

If you’re of my generation—part of the babyboom—you spend some of your leisure hours commenting about how much change we’ve had to adapt to over the course of our lifetimes.

If you’re of my generation—part of the babyboom—you spend some of your leisure hours commenting about how much change we’ve had to adapt to over the course of our lifetimes.

Well, you better work on perfecting those whining skills, for in a few years the pace of change we’ve experienced thus far will seem glacially slow compared to what we’ll be trying to cope with.

Instead of wasting words talking about how fast things change, we should be asking ourselves how we can educate and train students to prepare for tomorrow and tomorrow’s top jobs, when we don’t yet know what those occupations are to be.

We have some ideas, of course. Things that will probably yield careers a decade from now include automation, health care, computers, genetics  and alternative energy.

And there are bound to be some surprises, some areas and careers beyond our imagination.

As an example, a recent article suggested that one of the new jobs will be for sinking city specialists, people who will advise coastal municipalities on how to deal with the problems that accompany oceans rising because of global warming.

(The same article said that genetic counselor would be an occupation you’d find companies recruiting for in 2020. Too late—do a Google search and you’ll find there is already a national organization of genetic counselors. It seems that as quickly as you can imagine a career, it exists.)

The uncertainty of what’s coming at us means course texts cannot be written that will impart the knowledge, theories and formulae that the graduates of 2013 or 2015 will need at their fingertips as they step into the workplace. The good news is they’ll probably be able to find those on Google or Wikipedia in nano-seconds anyway.)

So, the best approach in times of change such as these is to use education and training to develop the skills that will let people adapt to changing circumstances.

That’s what every school board, every college and every university says it is doing—imparting the critical thinking skills that will serve the lifelong learner.

We’d best hope that they are living up to that promise.

If we’re doing a good job with our students, we’re inspiring them to be increasingly curious too.

It’s a must-have if we want to them to be innovative.

I worry when I see a young person using his iPad, smart phone, and GPS without expressing any interest in what makes them tick.

If there isn’t a modicum of interest in the magic and science that lies behind that keyboard or screen, who is going to be interested enough to find ways to make them better, to develop the next Blackberry?)

At the same time that we’re culturing innovation through curiosity, we ought to be fostering a healthy skepticism in our youth.

People need to know when to take things with a grain of salt.

They need to understand and appreciate what comprises a good work ethic at the same time as they comprehend what a work-life balance is.

They need to be able to solve problems. They need to be able to work with others. And they need to be able to communicate. What good is an idea or a solution if you can’t do a decent job of communicating it?

It’s asking an awful lot of our education system and our young people, isn’t it?

Truth is, it’s what education and training have always been about. It’s just that these days all those skills are that much more important because of how fast things change.

Allan Coyle is the director of public affairs for Okanagan College.

 

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