Preparing students for the workforce of the future at Singleton

A LEARNING JOURNEY: Australian Christian College year 7 student, Lachlan, learns about aerodynamics from Electrotechnology teacher Allan Perry. Picture: SUPPLIED.
A LEARNING JOURNEY: Australian Christian College year 7 student, Lachlan, learns about aerodynamics from Electrotechnology teacher Allan Perry. Picture: SUPPLIED.

The research is out - the workforce is changing, and students must be ready for it.

Trends towards using artificial intelligence, automation, and robotics "make this shift as significant as the mechanization in prior generations of agriculture and manufacturing", according to a report by analyst group McKinsey & Company.

A report by the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) claims young people need to focus on skills rather than jobs in preparation for the future workforce.

This shouldn't come as a big surprise, says Tim Shields, principal at Australian Christian College in Singleton.

"We know our graduates will more likely have a varied career path than the linear trajectory their parents may have taken," he said.

"We also know they'll need specific skills to successfully navigate a complex, global and high-tech workforce."

The FYA report identified seven Australian job 'clusters' that require groups of closely-related, portable skills. When someone trains or works in one job, they acquire skills for 13 others, on average. Take 'The Informers' cluster, for example, which are jobs requiring skills in providing education, information or business services.

A young person taking a job in this cluster should easily be able to apply the portable technical skills to others.

Mr Shields said ACC Singleton focused on equipping secondary students with a portfolio of work-ready skills.

"Research has already shown significant increases in the demand for digital literacy, critical thinking and creativity. Our research-backed teaching strategy ensures skills like these are embedded across the secondary curriculum."

In preparing students for jobs that may not exist yet, the so-called 'soft skills' are also vital.

"Social and emotional traits can't be automated and may never be replicated by robots," Mr Shields said.

"We aim for our students to graduate with important human traits, such as empathy, compassion and the ability to collaborate with diverse groups of people."

This approach was corroborated by a 2020 LinkedIn study, which showed the top five soft skills in demand by employers were creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability and emotional intelligence.

"Our teachers are committed to helping students develop their curiosity and ability to communicate effectively. We also foster resilience, to prepare our students for a future where change is the only certainty," Mr Shields said.

Furthermore, being a smaller school, ACC Singleton's teachers have the best chance of steering students towards meaningful work.

"Our team are dedicated to helping students determine their interests and passions, as well as their aptitudes," Mr Shields said.

"We believe this is key to preparing graduates for future work that is sustainable, satisfying and fulfills their God-given purpose."

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