Geoff Leask, chief executive at Young Enterprise Scotland, reckons that to prepare for the workplace in 2030, the education system should put just as much focus on developing core skills in creativity, problem solving, teamworking and communication within young people, as it should on honing skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Even if you’re at the forefront of the science and technology industry, and firmly have your finger on the pulse of plans for future development, there’s no way of predicting exactly how the world of work is going to change over the next 10 years.
With that in mind, it’s going to be even more difficult to pre-empt the skills young people will need to develop to help them be successful in life and work in 2030.
The Scottish Government recently announced 100 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) teacher education bursaries, aimed at easing the transition for people giving up full-time paid employment to undertake initial teacher training education.
I think that’s a great plan and should be fully supported.
But no matter what we’re dealing with in terms of advancing technology, unless humans are completely wiped off the face of the earth, we’re always going to have to talk to each other.
Regardless of technical and academic capabilities, communication is the foundation upon which every working relationship is built. Fundamental to every task is the requirement to speak to each other to get the job done.
And because of that, communication is at the core of Young Enterprise Scotland’s work with young people throughout all of our enterprise programmes.
In taking part in practical enterprise learning activities, young people find different ways to get a message across, and find out about the best ways of working with an often diverse group of people to get the best results.
That’s not to say that young people should push the technical skills to one side to focus on the core – or ‘soft’ – skills. They should complement each other perfectly.
If you show creativity, work well as part of a team using effective communication skills, and in doing so, help to solve problems – whatever the technical context – you’re onto a winner.
I’ve formed my opinion through hearing some fantastic human-interest success stories from across all part of Scotland, but I’m also going with my instincts – which, it turns out, align with some high-profile industry research.
In 2013, Google decided to test its hiring hypothesis by crunching every bit of hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since its inception in 1998.
Project Oxygen found that STEM skills came in last in terms of employee success – that is, technical skills hadn’t necessarily helped with promotion.
The most successful employees exhibited being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others; having empathy toward and being supportive of colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.
It’s these components that YES seeks to bring to the fore.
Our current ‘Enterprise for All’ strategy sets out plans to ensure that every young person, regardless of how they start out in life, should have access to enterprise education, to equip them with the best chance possible out there in the job market.
We aim to inspire young people to learn, develop, and reach their full potential through enterprise.
It’s not just about teaching for teaching’s sake: all of our activities are focused on equipping young people with skills that will empower them and give them the confidence to make their own career choices and build a life for themselves.
Whatever the future holds, I’m hopeful that if young people go forward with strong, human qualities, core skills and values, we’ll stand strong in the face of automation.