Life and Work Skills of the Future

I’ve written about the impact of The Information Age and The Technology Revolution on work….what jobs are emerging and going away….what skills are needed.  And there is no doubt that technology is transforming the nature of work and how we live our lives.  But, here at Champlain College, we are going through an exercise about what competencies we want our students to have when they graduate, and have found something surprising.  Many of the emerging skills that will be in demand in the future are not obviously connected to technology.

Let’s start with a list of competencies that were put together more than a decade ago:

  • Critical and Creative Thinking
  • Ethical Reasoning
  • Global Appreciation
  • Oral Communication
  • Quantitative Literacy
  • Technology and Information Literacy
  • Written Communication

A pretty good list, even a decade later.  In fact, we’re finding that all of these are still quite relevant for work and for life, even though the particulars of some of these may look different today than back in 2001.  For example, technology literacy today would include mobile devices and social networks, neither of which existed when this competency was articulated.  And the emergence of Big Data has placed a whole new set of demands on quantitative literacy.

We also did a scan….research studies, surveys, expert opinions, employer feedback, our own internal perspectives….to see if, in the last decade, a whole new set of skills are emerging as important.  In fact, we did find a bunch of them….16 to be exact.  Here’s the list:

  • Anticipation — Ability to predict the future, to see trends.
  • Mentorship –  Actively giving back by thoughtful guidance to others.
  • Entrepreneurship – Producer versus just consumer; opportunism.
  • Teamwork/Collaboration – Recognition that relationships matter.
  • Curiosity and Inquisitiveness – A focus on ‘wondering’ and then pursuing/developing ideas through active questioning.
  • Flexibility/Adaptability – Lifelong learning; passion for self-expansion.
  • Embracing conflict – and making it productive.
  • Transdisciplinarity/Integrated Thinking (Regrets again to the spell-check god) – Recognition that everything exists in an interdependent system, and the ability to create and leverage system connections.
  • Productivity – Capacity for a large workload; ability to manage multiple priorities.
  • Personal Initiative – A bias to raise issues and opportunities, and an equal bias to do something about them.
  • Happiness — within which is self-awareness and life choices consistent with a keen sense of self.  Aka, self-actualization.
  • Integrity/Ethics – Consonance between stated beliefs and behaviors.
  • Empathy — The ability to put oneself in the heart and mind of another.
  • Active Listening — Ability to truly hear ideas in non-judgmental ways.
  • Emotional Intelligence — The ability to identify, assess, and work within the emotions of oneself, others, and groups.
  • Resilience — Ability to persevere through challenges; the grit to stick to things despite obstacles.

Now, you might say that not all of these are new, and that they were relevant, and have been relevant for a long time.  Which is my point.  You don’t need to invoke information access and availability, the world wide web, nor robotics to identify these as important.  They are, in a real sense, timeless.  I find myself being comforted by all of this.  The world is changing at a dizzying pace, and my mind sometimes swirls.  But, to see that there are some skills, traits, mindsets, and capabilities that endure suggests that there is a constant within all of this technology-driven change…..Human-ness.  The list above can be interpreted as what it takes to be a human being, and these things transcend.  Somehow, the ground seems firmer beneath my feet today.

Stay tuned…..

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