Tuesday, July 19, 2011

We Know What the Jobs of the Future Will Be- 21 million wanted

It is puzzling to hear in today’s economic climate that we do not know how to prepare the kids of today for the job market of tomorrow. We know it will require high competency in technology, the ability to work in teams and a willingness to think outside the box to solve problems.

As most Americans believe, our education system is not doing the job. It’s not like we as teachers do not know that as we get buried in more standardization and testing. Every teacher should take note and prepare kids for the massive economic restructuring that is occurring. Every teacher should read and fill their practice with the insight from June 2011’s McKinsey Global Institute’s “An economy that works: Job creation and America’s future”. The report provides a serious grounding for what we have just endured and what is coming. What is clear is that the output of today’s education system does not meet the needs of American companies. So start the new school year by telling parents and students the hard truth, “in the recent pace of job creation, it will take more than 60 months after GDP reached its prerecession level in December 2010 for employment to recover. The United States will need to create a total of 21 million new jobs in this decade to put unemployed Americans back to work and to employ its growing population" and finally “the United States will not have enough workers with the right education and training to fill the skill profiles of the jobs likely to be created” (Manyika et al., 2011).

We know that if young people go into certain professions that are experiencing and will continue over the next decade to decline: construction, finance, certain government jobs and MBAs, a middle class standard of living will be hard to obtain and retain. After a decade of net job losses and the weakest job creation since the Depression, it’s time to be real. Should we deter our students from those jobs? That is a matter of debate but it is not without a doubt we need to orient kids to the jobs our nation needs. We know what we need, more college graduates in the specialized fields of: health care, technology, mathematics, engineering, manufacturing, related green tech (solar, wind, efficiency inventiveness), energy independence and even leisure. In addition, with massive productivity gains due to technology, kids expecting a stable job will find more part-time flexibility and virtual jobs with lower pay unless you offer specialized highly sought after skills.

What should the education system do? Further specialty centers in information technology, green tech, automotive, electrical and welding. We have $2 trillion in unmet infrastructure needs (roads, bridges, ports, rail, out of date electrical grids and water systems). It’s time for a rebirth of technical schools connected to community colleges for the 21st century. Have your kid experiment and learn how to improve a fuel cell battery, make more efficient solar paneling, and develop the next online platform and energy independence. We need businesses to get off the sidelines and invest in partnerships with our high schools. We need more internships and apprenticeships with a direct path to employment with or without college. 21st century skills education needs to be in a child’s daily education experience. If it is not, then question, teachers and administrators. We need our schools to return a spirit of resiliency, ingenuity and free spirit which lays the seeds of our nation’s prosperity. Take a look below and get real:

Ben Nicely is a public high school teacher of 12 years in Central Virginia. He has taught AP Government, US Government, US History, ESL and World History from 1500. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a minor in International Studies and a Masters in Teaching from Virginia Commonwealth University.

He has a graduate certificate through American Public University in Homeland Security and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Emergency and Disaster Management. Ben has served on many high school committees on technology in the classroom, balanced assessments, school scheduling, and school safety. He is a strong advocate for teachers being treated fairly and moving away from educational norms to truly move students into a 21st century learning environment. In his spare time, Ben enjoys running, traveling, kayaking and volunteering with the American Red Cross. He is married with two dogs.


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