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Anticipating and Preparing for Emerging Skills and Jobs


Back in December, I attended the Asian Development Bank 7th Skills Forum on Anticipating and Preparing for Emerging Skills and Jobs. As Head of Technical and Vocational Pathways at Cambridge International, I believe this topic is crucial.

We must actively prepare learners for the world of the future if we don’t want to fail whole generations of young people – not just youth with low or inexistent skills but increasingly high school or higher education graduates without the right skills for employment. The Forum started with two inspiring keynote presentations: Dr Carl Frey, Oxford University, presented the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ from a historical perspective, by asking the question: The Future of Skills and jobs: Is this time different?

Obsolete jobs

Machinery Riots

The second presentation, by Dr Paul Kim from Stanford University, focused on The Fourth Industrial Revolution and its Implications for Education. The difference in style between the two presentations was in itself an illustration of the main change brought about by the digital revolution – pace! For Dr Kim the main disruptor for education today is Artificial Intelligence and its underpinning big data technology.

Jill Watson: AI teaching assistant

Artificial intelligence in the classroom

Dr Kim’s key message, in true digital language, is that education does not need tweaking but a complete re-boot. How we learn in the future needs to go hand in hand with the other key question: what should we learn in the future?  Introducing new technologies for teaching and learning must not only include sound reflection about how pedagogy has to be re-thought carefully to make the most of what technology has to offer but also essential re-thinking of what we should teach.

The ADB forum brought together a range of different education stakeholders such as policy makers, practioners, experts, employers, and social entrepreneurs.

It prompted rich discussions and some clear leads in terms of qualities and skills essential for the future:

  • Curiosity, ability to question and to research
  • Innovation and creativity
  • Multi-disciplinarity and ability to connect,develop own networks, to empathise and collaborate
  • Adaptability, responsiveness, agility;
  • STEM education, designing and making, understanding and use of data;
  • Entrepreneurship/social entrepreneurship, leadership, ability to explore/let others explore new ideas,
  • Coping with and learning from failure
  • Autonomy, learning to learn, life-long learning

Nothing of this is new but there is a shift, the ‘soft’ skills of the past are becoming the ‘hard’ skills of the future. Dr Kim illustrated this with a quote from Alvin Toffler: The illiterates of the 21s century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.

Dr Kim presented SMILE (Stanford Mobile Inquiry-Based Learning Environment), a mobile learning platform designed to help students study school subject matter, develop higher order learning skills and generate transparent real-time learning analytics. Here is a school resource that can support learners to develop holistically the knowledge, skills and qualities that they will need to strive in tomorrow’s world. It is an example of how school leaders and teachers will have to unlearn and relearn new approaches to teaching and learning if they are committed to preparing their students for the future.

Here at Cambridge International we have been following closely the development of our new international headquarters in Cambridge, called the Triangle. Our new office from March 2018 will reflect the working practices of the future – a flexible, open plan environment equipped with the latest technology and plenty of breakout spaces where workers can reinvigorate their focus. The idea is to encourage and facilitate collaboration and innovation. This move will bring the whole of the Cambridge Assessment Group under one roof and coincides with our re-branding as Cambridge Assessment International Education, a more integrated global organisation, and an enhanced mission – how we’ll work and what we’ll do in the future re-thought at the same time.

We must approach education in the same way: not only re-think pedagogy in the digital age but also re-think holistically about the whole school environment and what we teach our children if we want to prepare them for the world of the future.

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