Collaboration by all stakeholders is key to ensuring that youth are equipped with the right skills for the future economy. By today’s definition, the skills we think are relevant and the way that we define education and curriculum will likely look quite different in 10 or 20 years if we are committed to developing these key skills for success. For example, education may include:
- experiential learning opportunities (e.g. virtual reality simulations or simulated real-life workplace scenarios);
- integration of digital skills learning opportunities across subject matters (versus a siloed approach with singular classes for specific digital topics like “coding” or “digital skills”);
- interaction with companies that have expertise and business acumen to share with children and youth;
each of these, as well as other new opportunities, will be critical. Of equal importance, is offering engagement opportunities that pique the curiosity and ignite the inner-innovator in children as early as 4 and 5 years of age. Experiences in the UK, Sweden and other parts of the world have shown that this can be done through activities that develop computing logic skills and may require teams to solve tough challenges (e.g. http://www.digitalschoolhouse.org.uk/), or may include programming or building something (e.g. the BBC microbit project: https://www.microbit.co.uk/). In all cases, the key is to offer options that are engaging, challenging and fun to help kids get started on a path that will help them succeed in the future. We need to ensure that in terms of education we are constantly evaluating the material being taught and the delivery model. Work needs to be done to ensure buy in from the parents, students, educators and government. An important piece is ensuring that Canadians understand the shifting landscape and why certain skills are more important today than ever before. By setting a clear framework with defined objectives this will help build awareness of the value of these skills and also provide a measuring stick to ensure progress.
Many of our member companies have also expressed that while young graduates are engaged in co-ops and internships, they still seem to lack the general business skills required to grow into leadership positions. Deeper collaboration and consultation on curriculum and programs between training organizations, including elementary, secondary and post-secondary institutions may help to facilitate the reduction of this skills gap in new employees and better prepare students for the work force.
Certainly students in secondary school start considering what they want to do for work when they “grow up”, but these skills are not reserved solely for secondary school and can be introduced very early on in simple ways. One example of an organization championing this new approach is Alt School, a US based private school (https://www.altschool.com/). We encourage the government to consider how to support and inspire new learning opportunities for children, youth, and their families that are engaging, dynamic and equally supported by the provinces.
To start this process we would recommend the Government consider further collaboration with the provinces to establish a national skills strategy that incents and rewards provincial innovation in education.