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School and government “must try harder”

Global thought leader Anders Sörman-Nilsson says our children aren’t being taught the necessary cognitive and emotional skills needed for tomorrow’s workplaces.

Despite Australian parents being forward-thinking, global futurist and innovation strategist Anders Sörman-Nilsson (LLB/EMBA) says the Australian Government is letting both them and their children down.

As a futurist, Anders offers key foresight into what’s to come by analysing key signs, data and intelligence to map out the future, and he says that in the not-too-distant future, smart parents will stop encouraging their kids to become doctors and lawyers.

“The job landscape will be unrecognisable in a decade’s time and, according to the World Economic Forum, 65% of children today will end up in jobs that simply don’t even exist yet,” he says.

“These include coding ethicists to problem-solve eventualities that may arise with future technologies or experience creators who will work for companies in the ‘transformation economy’ offering customers experiences and self-development to transform themselves.”

Having shared the stage with notable speakers, including Hillary Clinton, Nobel laureates and global heads of state, and working with many of the world’s top well-known brands, including Apple, Gartner, Amex, Adobe, Mercedes-Benz, Hilton, SAP and Macquarie Bank, it’s fair to say Anders knows what he’s talking about.

“We are entering a second renaissance and a creativity explosion, where robots will take care of the boring, admin jobs for us, and jobs will focus on creativity and emotional intelligence,” he explains.

“As such, unlike when we were younger, and creativity was stifled in children, these skills and thinking outside the box will be crucial for future roles. As parents, we must ensure our children are being taught these in school, as well as being adaptable and able to think critically to prepare them to thrive in the workforce of the future.”

However, recent research, commissioned by Anders’ think tank, Thinque, has revealed that 70% of Australians are worried about their children’s success in the workplaces of the future, yet government education policies fail to address concerns.

A further 74% went on to state that educational institutions and the government aren’t doing enough to help prepare children, with a lack of focus on teaching the necessary cognitive and emotional skills needed for tomorrow’s workplaces.

“Our research has shown that Australian parents are far more futuristic than we may have expected, with many being acutely aware of the skills the market of the future will value most,” Anders explains.

“When asked, 76% of those surveyed listed soft skills, including problem-solving, creative thinking and leadership, as those necessary to survive in the workplace. Despite this, the major parties have completely dropped the ball when it comes to their education policies by continuing to focus on training children for the jobs of yesterday, rather than investing in innovative skills needed for careers of the future.”

When looking at 2019 government policies proposed by both major parties, the Liberal party promised to provide $37 billion to schools over the next decade (to 2029), with these funds to go towards improving teacher quality, funding apprentices in occupations with skills shortages and piloting industry-led programs.

Labor also pledged to deliver an extra $14 billion for public schools over the next decade, which will go towards providing 13,000 extra teachers and 23,000 extra teacher aides, but with neither of the major parties making any mention of training children adequately for the roles they will take on, Anders says parents should be concerned about their children’s future.

“In order to prepare Australian youth, curriculums must evolve to allow children to learn key soft skills such as increased creativity, entrepreneurship, problem-solving and emotional intelligence skills – all human abilities that artificial intelligence is much slower at picking up in comparison to the ability to crunch numbers, analyse patterns and follow logic,” he says.

Anders – who is an active member of TEDGlobal and has keynoted at TEDx, was nominated to the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders in 2019, and was the keynote speaker at the G20’s Y20 Summit in Australia – states that to inspire change, companies, education systems and governments must update policies to encourage the development of future-proof skills.

“In my role as a futurist, I work with organisations to design and champion this kind of transformation through scenario planning, offering a fundamental re-think of what work will look like beyond the horizon; something governments would be wise to do in a country looking to them for future solutions.”

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