Vocational ed must place more focus on lifelong learning, soft skills
- Most current vocational programs in schools are too narrow in focus to easily adapt to rapidly developing technology, Robert Urzillo, retired superintendent and current director of the graduate education program at Rosemont College, writes for District Administration.
- Students, however, can be protected from the impact of job transformation or obsolescence, he suggests.
- The solution, Urzillo says, is to develop students into lifelong learners who have a solid basis in reading and math skills, but who are also adept at the four C’s, which he defines as coding, communications, creativity and collaboration.
The ideas that Urzillo is promoting are being echoed throughout the world, as it becomes clearer that today's industrial revolution demands a new focus in education that goes beyond STEM learning alone. As Jobs for the Future recently reported: “This new paradigm calls for a radical rethinking of how we educate and employ workers: motivating them to continue to adapt to the demands of a changing labor market to be lifelong learners."
The World Economic Forum recently offered a similar warning: “The fourth industrial revolution will turn the world of work as we know it on its head as it continues to unfold," they write, adding that "unless the world’s monolithic education systems can be reformed and rendered more nimble, their failings will come back to haunt future generations’ ability to prosper.”
The focus on lifelong learning means that educators need to equip students with learning basics, such as reading and math, as well as teaching them how to think. The focus in the future job market will not be on rote memory of facts or computations that computers can provide, but on social-emotional and critical thinking skills that computers cannot. A recent survey by the Pew Institute revealed that employers see a need for “a focus on nurturing unique human skills that artificial intelligence (AI) and machines seem unable to replicate," such as "collaborative activity, abstract and systems thinking, complex communication, and the ability to thrive in diverse environments.”
- District Administration Vocational education: From the three ‘Rs’ to the four ‘Cs’