Times have changed: Preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s world

Frances Valintine
Times have changed: Preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s world

My career has been focused forward on the needs of tomorrow’s world so that I can help today’s students develop the skills and capability that aligns with projected skill demand.

Right now we are all living through a period of rapid transition. Many New Zealand industries have already felt the impact of technology disruption as digital distribution and the impact of emerging technologies has forced businesses to reinvent themselves to remain competitive and relevant.

Today’s business reliance on technology requires all employees to be digitally confident and adaptable. All students need to be well versed in digital and technological platforms as well as technical tools and software to be successful, whether they are training to be a mechanic, a retailer, a medical practitioner or a teacher.

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New Zealand’s future success as a small geographically isolated nation will require a significant percentage of our population to be creative and technically capable and our business environment to actively encourage a culture of idea development and innovation. Rapid prototyping, high-speed scalability, mass distribution, the Internet of Things, originality, sustainability and responsiveness will be foundation of future business and personal success.

By 2020 the world will be supporting over 7.4 billion people, nearly double the world’s population of 30 years ago. This population growth is most notable in developing nations whose populations are increasingly urban, educated and connected. According to the OECD Predications report between now and 2020 a further 60 million university graduates aged between 25-34 years will enter the global workforce, with the majority located in our neighbouring region of greater Asia.  

This highly skilled and educated graduate population is looking for high paid, global roles where there is greatest opportunity and maximum reward. This emerging market is also highly skilled at aligning their qualifications with the needs of global growth sectors and future job markets.

You may ask, why would an additional 60,000,000 new skilled graduates impact on New Zealand or New Zealanders?

Today’s global demand for engineers, software developers, computer scientists, coders and computer analysts is driven by a growing worldwide eco-system of entrepreneurs and creators, designers and scientists who are working to improve products and services to be more digital, intuitive, flexible and adaptable. 

Simultaneously, there is a further group of technologists and scientists developing solutions for the world’s biggest sustainability challenges (food, education, shelter, infrastructure for all) who are creating equal demand for technically skilled and scientific minds to be problem-solvers, inventors and pioneers in technologies that will contribute to the sustainability of our planet.

This ground swell of demand for technically skilled people has created a global talent drought and graduates in developing countries are actively encouraging students to develop skills in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math). While increased participation in these subjects by New Zealand children is essential, we also need to ensure our children develop problem-solving, creative skills that lead to the creation of new IP and new sustainable industries.

Right now too many of our young people, especially our daughters, are following traditional subject paths leading to jobs that will reduce in number over the next decade.

Service based careers such as accounting and law, marketing and sales will increasingly become commodity products and international competitors offering the same service at lower costs will impact on employment.

When I founded The Mind Lab my goal was to expose young students to the possibility of creative technologies and its convergence with science. We set out to spark an interest, passion and curiosity in these areas in children while also training their teachers to understand and build their confidence in digital and collaborative learning.

As parents we need to acknowledge the transformation the world has gone through and how the subject choices that our children make today will greatly impact on their success tomorrow. Too often I hear parents say they don’t understand today’s education system and therefore they take a passive role in their children’s education. I believe that as parents we have an obligation to investigate the global skill demand and ensure our children understand which skills and capabilities will be in most valued in the future.  

My advice for parents is to look for schools where technology is effectively integrated across all subjects rather than within a narrow ICT subject silo. The best education practices of today encourage students to use an ‘inquiry-based’ approach to learning, and a culture of project based learning, research and collaboration. These active classes are developed to assist students learn through doing rather than being focused on the short term retention of content.

I recommend we all encourage our children to study mathematics and science as far as they can and balance these subjects with social sciences, business or design subjects to keep their options wide and their knowledge areas broad and flexible as they enter higher education or the job market.

Cookie cutter ‘me too’ qualifications will hold less value in the future as employers look for diverse thought and graduates who bring new ways of looking at things to the workplace. Those students who bring a broad perspective, curiosity and technical capability will have the greatest opportunities and scope for success.

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 Frances Valintine

Over the past 20 years Frances Valintine has worked extensively in the education, creative and technology sectors. She was co-founder of the Media Design School in Auckland before establishing The Mind Lab, a partnership with Unitec to develop the digital and collaborative skills of students and their teachers. Frances is a passionate educator and business person focused on future talent needs and the transformation of industries.

She is an Education NZ board member and sits on the Small Business Advisory Group for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

This year Frances won the New Zealand Entrepreneurship Award for Women in Film and Television, the Gold Award for 'Engaging Youth in ICT' at the NZ CIO Awards and the 'Best NZ Start Up' for the Asia Pacific Talent Unleashed Awards.

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